Leading Virtual Teams: How To Create Interpersonal Connection

Posted on July 01, 2020

MacDonald Search Group’s commitment to making an impact for clients and candidates is evidenced in part by the degree our team stays informed of industry trends. Each of our consultants is a leader in their field, providing insights and offering strong consultative value to clients.

Senior Consultant, Trevor Baker, recently completed the University of British Columbia Certificate in Organizational Coaching, deepening his skills in this area. Over the years, Trevor has coached hundreds of corporate leaders and applicants. Through applying a coaching mindset in working with organizations, he gets to the core of a client’s needs. Weaving together input from all stakeholders, Trevor sees the bigger picture of his clients’ hiring needs and makes sure that the clients are successful in getting what they are after.

Trevor’s work as a coach also leads to requests from organizational leaders to help navigate through their changing management dynamics. Following COVID-19, Trevor notes, three challenges have become increasingly common:

  1. How to create a culture of trust in the new “work from home” environment.
  2. How to work with your team in the aftermath of mass covid-related restructuring and the move away from working together to working apart.
  3. How to build team cohesion and loyalty in a virtual environment.

In this article, we are sharing some of Trevor’s insights on how to embrace these challenges:

How to bring people together, build trust, and foster cohesion in a virtual work environment

This year, everyone had to quickly adapt to a changing work environment. Some found the change in workplace refreshing, even becoming more productive by investing their former commute time on work products. But for many, the allure of working from home quickly wore off.

It’s difficult to build trust and foster cohesion in a remote work environment. When working together in an office, the daily habits of chatting in the hallway and grabbing lunch with coworkers are small experiences that create positive outcomes. But when working from home, there’s not the same organic opportunities for micro-team building.

More apparently, there’s not always an opportunity for more orchestrated activities, like company picnics, which are intentionally designed to strengthen team cohesion. These important in-person events enable employees and their families to gather socially outside of work. They are a time where people consciously and eagerly bring together two typically different parts of their world: Home and work.

The current state for many is one of unintentionally blurred lines between work and home and of lacking social interaction with coworkers. So how do you accomplish bringing people together, building trust, and fostering cohesion without our typical events and office socializing?

While it may take more thought than in the past, it is entirely possible for managers of remote workforces to create opportunities for their team to build interpersonal relationships. Here are a few examples:

Virtual company picnic

Taking in-person events online is more simple than you may believe. In fact, virtual events may be even more comfortable and enjoyable for many families. While an employee picnic can be a very awkward experience for many, a virtual gathering puts people at ease because they are in their physical comfort zone, with more control over their environment and interactions.

To make a virtual company picnic a success, invest equal time and resources into planning it as you would an in-person event. Send invitations to a video conference, including friends, family, and pets. Leverage digital break out rooms and randomize pairings to foster small group conversations. Make sure to send a supply basket in advance, which includes materials to participate in group games and food. We love the idea of a s’mores kit with a tealight candle ‘campfire’.

‘Cribs’ virtual tour

As the lines of work and home are being blurred, smaller teams can lean into the circumstances by setting up a casual, Cribs-style tour. Employees can volunteer to welcome their co-workers into their home for a virtual tour. Those that are up for it can show off what makes them, them. You can provide more specific prompts such as sharing home office hacks or hosting a cooking class.

Online fundraiser

Sharing a common goal and working together to help others are timeless ways to establish bonds. Banding together for an online group fundraiser like the popular ALS Ice Bucket Challenge or the trending Lemon Face Challenge is a low-effort way to make an impact on multiple levels.

Virtual coffee dates

When social interactions aren’t happening organically, like they do in an office setting, you can synthesize them for the same effect. One example is setting up virtual coffee dates between people who wouldn’t normally work directly together. Task each person to get to the other and circle back with their team on what they learned about their colleagues' interests, work, and experiences.

Creating new ways of working

Making an effort to bring people together just once or twice won’t be enough to impact trust and cohesion. Effectively managing teams requires a focus on updating the overall way we work.

While there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to successfully bringing people together, infusing daily work-from-home practices with high-value interactions improves business objectives. To successfully bring people together, take from the practices we’ve suggested and make them your own. Align the new way you work with your objectives and your company culture and you’re sure to find success no matter the location of your team members.

Trevor Baker and our team of consultants at MacDonald Search Group are experienced in helping executives navigate changing management dynamics and leadership challenges. We do more than help you hire, we help you make an impact. To learn more about how we can help you bring people together, build trust, and foster cohesion in a virtual work environment, get in touch with us today.