Leading hybrid and remote teams requires reinforcing your connections. Here’s how.
Building a strong team has always been important. One of the most critical questions for leaders today is: How to keep teams connected in an increasingly disconnected world? With the rise of remote and hybrid work, leaders now face the increased challenges of managing a team with different locations, time zones, and schedules.
Here are a few ways you can bolster your team’s connection today.
Small talk isn’t small
Open meetings and gatherings with basic check-ins—ask everyone what’s going on, outside of work.
This might seem like an obvious move, something that happens without planning. But it’s important that what many consider “small talk” is not viewed as unnecessary or “wasting time.” Small talk used to happen without much effort when teams worked in shared spaces. You’d pour a cup of coffee or bump into someone in a hallway—next thing you knew, you were chatting about weather, sports, kids, or what you did over the weekend. With teams that aren’t regularly meeting in person, it’s vital to intentionally create these opportunities.
Not only do these chats make work a more pleasant experience, they’ve also been shown to increase bonds between people.1 The reality is that there will always be more work to complete, more projects to launch, more meetings to attend. Taking time to connect allows everyone to enjoy the ride together, through all the ups and downs.
Make time for fun
Remember fun? It’s not just for weekends anymore. Fun experiences connect people and break up the usual routine. And there’s no need to organize an elaborate skydiving trip or meditation retreat. Sticking to the following tried-and-true classics is just as powerful:
- Happy hours. Cocktails are optional with this one—the focus is on casual fun. Keep it fresh by having a different person host and come up with a new theme each time. Whether you’re on the patio, out at the lake, at a restaurant, or online, you’re switching gears and giving everyone time to get to know each other.
- Lunch-and-learns. These are a fun way for teams to mentor each other. A mix of introspective and upskilling activities will help balance the technical with the reflective. Ask everyone what they’d be interested in teaching or learning about, then assign accordingly—virtually, in-person, in the office kitchen, at a nearby park or restaurant. Then let the learning and fun happen.
Make recognition specific, personal, and authentic
What’s the number-one thing employees want? Consistent and frequent recognition for the work they do. When recognition is a tradition, people feel valued and engaged. Powerful recognition efforts are specific, personal, and authentic. Here’s how it works:
- Be specific. Create or enhance already-built recognition structures that match your team’s style and mission. Sales goals celebrations, “Employee of the Month” showcases, or highlights of specific project achievements—anything that consistently ties the work your team does is good to try.
- Be personal. People-first recognition is tailored to the person you’re honoring. That way, your team can see that you’re paying attention to—and valuing—each team member’s talents and quirks. Keep it fun by adding (appropriate) inside jokes, memorable mix-ups, and ongoing struggles, too.
- Be authentic. Recognition isn’t just about easy, clearly defined wins! Reward tenacity, persistence, and grace under pressure. Be open and honest about the difficulties your team has faced. This candor directly acknowledges past struggles while boosting morale for future ones.
Follow the four L’s of leadership
Leadership style also influences team camaraderie. Building team bonds starts with leaders who:
- Listen. Provide a safe environment for sharing ideas and asking questions.
- Learn. Take in information and reflect on what’s possible.
- Lead. Decide which ideas are doable, explain why others are not, and offer a clear plan of what’s ahead.
- Let go. Trust your teams. Shift your mindset from I need to make the decisions to I am cultivating good decision makers.
This can be challenging, especially in growing organizations. But it’s necessary work that yields long-term benefits, including retaining and attracting talent.
Team building is an ongoing effort
Building team camaraderie is an evolutionary process. Always look for ways to improve, whether your team is in-person, hybrid, and remote. Ask for input, leverage it and watch your team soar.
These aren’t sweeping changes—incremental tweaks are often just as effective. By putting people first and being willing to evolve, you’ll be well on your way to a strong, connected team, no matter where you are.
At Salo, we’re building a world that works better together. We match expert finance, accounting, and HR consultants with organizations that need their expertise. Looking to build connected teams? We have senior-level HR consultants who can help. Connect with us today.
1. Fast Company, The secret science behind the power of small talk.