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Maintaining Social Interactions with Your Teammates

Long Distance Leader

IN The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership, we included 19 Rules for remote leaders to follow. The first rule was the foundation for everything else: “Think about leadership first and location second.” The principles for successful leadership are the same, whether you are down the hall from your team, in the cubicle next to them, or they are working remotely.

The practical application of leadership first, location second, is to adapt what has worked in the past to the new remote working situation. One of the big changes as we move to a remote working situation is maintaining social interaction. We’ve been asked to practice social distancing. While physical distancing has been needed, we want to promote social closeness and interaction even at a physical distance. Making this happen will require you to be intentional and creative.

Replacing the Spontaneous Interaction

Much of the successful social interaction at work comes from spontaneous conversations that happen throughout the day. It includes peeking your head around the corner to share a joke with someone nearby, sharing your weekend activities with a colleague while waiting for the pot of coffee to brew, and sharing a cup of coffee on a short break. Interactions like those help transform a group of individuals into a team united in reaching a common goal.

When teams work remotely, however, those spontaneous conversations can no longer happen organically. Yet that social interaction is still critical to team development. How do we replace that when we are working remotely?

Using Technology to Help

Technology can be part of the answer. The communication platforms you are using can be used to create the same kinds of conversations we had at the office. What is required is awareness and permission. Most people think those tools are for work purposes. The fact is that the social interaction we are talking about is actually a part of the work itself! While we must value productivity, we must also let team members know it is still ok to reach out, share a joke, or just catch up. In fact, it may be more important than ever.

Some Simple Examples

Here are three simple examples. While you can use any or all of these, the purpose is to kickstart the creation of what will work for your team in your situation.

  • Recreating the watercooler. We have a channel on our instant messaging platform (we use Slack) dedicated to non-work talk. Called the Watercooler channel, it is a place for the kinds of conversations that would happen spontaneously in a traditional work setting. We talk about sports (when they are happening), our weekend, the exploits of our kids, the latest meme we enjoyed ... anything but work.
  • The virtual coffee-break. If Bob and Larry liked to share a cup of coffee during a break, they can still do that remotely. Bob just needs to reach out to Larry and invite him to have a conversation using the webcam. They can chat about how their homebrew is better than the office and all the other things they used to talk about in the break room or in their offices.
  • Virtual lunches. As a remote team before the shutdown happened, we have long used our webcams for meetings, lunches, and celebrations. Why not have people grab their lunch and eat together? We have done this with people, having lunch (or breakfast, depending on the time zone) and enjoying each other’s company. With 12 members of our team gathering, in some ways, these lunches are better than face-to-face because there are few side conversations.

Use these as your starting point, not a complete list of strategies to maintain social interaction and closeness, even while you and your team are physically distancing. Share this article with your team as a way to jumpstart a conversation about what you can do as a group to stay together while working apart.

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Leading Forum
Kevin Eikenberry is a recognized world expert on leadership development and learning and is the Chief Potential Officer of the Kevin Eikenberry Group. He is the creator of the Remarkable Leadership Learning System and the co-founder of the Remote Leadership Institute. He is the coauthor with Wayne Turmel of The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. He is also the author of the bestselling books, Remarkable Leadership, and Vantagepoints on Learning and Life, and coauthor with Guy Harris of From Bud to Boss: Secrets of the Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:40 PM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Communication



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