A number of firsts at IW NY took place this week:
- First in person meeting for Interactive Workshops NY
- First work trip to the US in two years
- First time to the top of the Empire State Building
- First sales call for a 10-year-old future IWer
At our last lunch, before heading our separate ways, we were riffing a few ideas and concepts when the topic turned to money. Someone (who shall not be named) sarcastically said, “money is what it’s all about.” We all chuckled, except for the 10-year-old who gave us a slightly disgusted look. So I pressed my luck regarding the level of understanding a 10-year-old could have into adult sarcasm and I asked her, “If it’s not all about money, then what is it really about?” Her response was quick, simple and profound: “Love.”
That prompted a round of “cheers,” from the table. But, sensing an interesting turn in the conversation, I decided to press it a bit further. I asked, “Ok, so if it’s really about love, how do you spell love?” Just like any top student would, she correctly spelled L-O-V-E, but with a confused look on her face that said, “Umm…. everyone knows that, why are you asking me?” I corrected her and said, “Actually, love is spelled T-I-M-E. You see, if you truly love someone, you dedicate time to spend with them. And the more time you spend with them, the more you grow to love each other.”
It was a cute little moment, but, after spending a week together as a team, I started to see the direct application of that thought to a work environment. I’ve known and worked with the IW team for years. Over the past month or so, I’ve spent many hours on Zoom, Teams, WebEx, BlueJeans, and other platforms with the team in London. That has been great, given the circumstances. But spending 3 days together – both locked in a conference room and romping around NYC – taught me a valuable lesson about simply spending time together. Bonds were forged quicker and stronger in person than during hours of Zoom calls. A sense of team cohesion started to really come into focus as we spent time simply getting to know each other’s goals, desires, worries, and families. There were times I was somewhat frustrated that our “business meetings” were less business/results/output/action/item focused and simply more relationship focused. Yet, from this frustration was born a new appreciation for human connection and, in particular, in person human interaction.
One case in point: it was during a dinner that a new inside joke was born that will provide positive emotions between team members for months to come. The imperial to metric system conversion can be hard when having to do it on the spot and in your head. It turns out, when your thinking is geared towards grams, the number 22 is not that big. But when 22 reflects the number of ounces of the steak you just ordered, suddenly it’s a pretty big number (624 grams to be exact).
It was only AFTER the dinner arrived, and a steak that was bigger than the plate it was served on landed in front of Nathan, did we realize his mental calculus error. We all had a good laugh and it was a point of good natured ribbing the rest of the trip. To his everlasting credit, he destroyed that T-bone like a champ. This type of experience is hard to replicate via Zoom and, if we decided to hold all of our meetings virtually, we would have missed out on this and many other positive/funny/nonsensical experiences. Yes, the work would have been done, the strategies would have been set, the action items assigned, but the sense of team would have been lost. It’s this sense of team that will see us through when the going gets tough. We know we’re in this for more than the money; we’re in this for the team.
So even though, as leaders, we’re not trying to foster love in the traditional sense of the word at work, so much of our work is dependent on working well and collaborating with our team. So as the world starts to open up, and as team members feel comfortable, we need to make sure we are putting the effort, time, and costs into getting together in person. These interactions are needed more than many of us realize. We have become so accustomed to only interacting with avatars or faces on a screen, that it’s only after we interact with a living, breathing team member do we realize just how much we needed that in person interaction.
We now live in a digital world, and we are never going back 100% to the way things used to be. We’re all facing a world of hybrid work. But that doesn’t mean that leaders can’t replicate some of the benefits of being in person. To drive teamwork in a digital world, here are three simple tactics I’ve found to be helpful:
Start every meeting with honest and genuine check-ins to see how everyone is doing
It may feel like time wasted in the short term but, in the long term, it will provide the connection needed for projects to run smoother.
Schedule time appropriate team gatherings with no other purpose than to have a bit of fun
Maybe it’s a weekly open lunch invite. Or maybe your team is one of the few who actually likes Friday night virtual happy hours. Whatever works for the members of your team, find time to be together.
Turn cameras on
Nobody likes to be on video all the time, and no-one should be forced to. But in specific meetings designed to drive teamwork, make sure everyone keeps the video on. The dirty laundry in the back, the dog running in the frame, and the child sitting on a lap will actually help rather than hurt.
Here’s to creating new bonds and relationships that are stronger and deeper. If you want to know how we can help your team create those bonds, let’s chat! I can be reached directly at email@example.com or you can schedule a time directly on my calendar by clicking here.