The pandemic and economic worries have changed our lives Everything is in a state of flux because of Covid-19. Businesses are either slowly opening or getting ready but not sure when they can open. People who are used to seeing their co-workers have been isolated for weeks. Amid all the confusion, team building is not high on the list of activities to consider. Yet, it is still important. More important than ever.
People are longing to reconnect. This is evidenced by the sudden large social gatherings and political rallies. Every neighborhood has witnessed scores of people gathering in front of their homes for impromptu parties. Yes, some sit six feet apart, but masks seem optional. This need to be with others is what makes us human.
So, as people return to the workplace (or continue to work at home), things will still be different in order to stay well. Those who do go into work will be separated from others; perhaps be required to wear masks or work behind physical barriers. Communicating and connecting are further hampered by masks that cover our mouths and expressions. Conversations are more difficult and shorter and Zoom meetings can be tedious because of two factors: only one person can speak at a time, and there is a time delay. Those meetings do not flow easily and are not very “enjoyable.”
Reconnecting is important to our mental health as well as our team’s ability to function as a team. Team building is an essential part of this. Do not confuse team building with playing a group game. Though many team building exercises are game based (and that does make them fun and entertaining), much of team building actually happens from the sharing of personal information and opinions/ideas. These things can be accomplished without playing a game.
Where to start? At your next team meeting – whether by Zoom or in person, give every person a chance to share their thoughts about the pandemic and how it has affected their lives personally. Don’t just jump into the business portion. This may seem pretty basic, but it is actually an exercise that will help build Trust among team members. For those who have read my blogs or the Lencioni book: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, you know that falling backward into people’s arms doesn’t build trust at all. Trust is something that is built over time and it is fostered by getting to know your team members on a more personal, human level; by finding commonalities and differences that we can relate to.
Do this at every meeting. However, do not just ask each person to say, “how they are doing.” You need to ask one specific question. For example: “If you had the power to change one thing right now, what would it be and why?” Better yet, you can give everyone the question a day before the meeting, so they have time to consider their answer rather than be put on the spot. Every person must be given time to talk without interruption.
This type of exercise allows people to SHARE. What is team building after all? It is the ability and willingness of team members to share ideas—and from doing so, be able to collaborate to increase positive energy, creativity, efficiency –and a sense of belonging.