If you want to see an extremely tight-knit, high-functioning team in action, this video from Simon Sinek offers a literal window into one group’s weekly meeting. Here’s what’s noteworthy about this Zoom call, and what’s likely different from your own team’s regular connects:
- There is NO BUSINESS discussed on this 75-minute call. The whole call is about building relationships, yet it isn’t a Virtual Happy Hour or a game or any other type of unstructured social gathering.
- It is in fact HIGHLY STRUCTURED, even ritualized. The meeting begins with a grounding exercise - in this case a few mindful breaths taken together—followed by “high fives” where anyone can offer shout-outs and recognition for anyone else. After that, they move on to a Question of the Week (“your #1 tip for those new to working from home”) which everyone answers, in addition to the question “what’s on your heart and mind?”, which recurs from week to week. The meeting closes with “a story of WHY we do what we do”, illustrating the impact and/or meaning of the organization’s mission (undoubtedly a refer to Sinek’s bestseller Start with Why).
- It’s AUTHENTIC, INSPIRING and unabashedly EMOTIONAL - team members speak from the heart and share on a personal level, including heartfelt nutritional and exercise advice (“it’s super important that you move in 3 planes of motion”), expressions of affections (“love you all”) and discussion of emotional pain and mental health (“thank you all so much for holding the space for me…so I could drive through the night to be with my family…for my mental health”).
This may sound both wonderful and unattainable for you and your co-workers. And going from your current status quo to a full-blown Huddle may be too big of a leap between now and next Monday morning. If so, don’t despair. Here are a few suggestions for baby steps that will get you started:
- Start small. You may feel unable to dedicate an entire hour+ meeting purely to the team’s relationships. Fair enough - you could consider a 30 or even 20-minutes weekly check in if that would work better. If you make it part of a task-oriented meeting, though, make sure you really set aside the time for personal sharing so it doesn’t feel rushed. And don’t leave it till the end - not only will you almost definitely not have enough time but putting it at the end of the agenda makes it feel like an add-on of low priority.
- Be a human. No matter where you sit on the org chart, showing a bit of personal vulnerability can go a long way towards encouraging others to open up and making it safe for them to do so. This really doesn’t have to mean unloading about your traumas or expressing more emotion than you feel comfortable with. A simple acknowledgment that everyone is dealing with a lot right now, including you, is enough to address the elephant in the room and make the atmosphere feel a bit more human-friendly.
- Introduce rituals. A few new norms, in-group gestures and recurring traditions do a lot to improve team cohesion and morale and have the added benefit of actually smoothly out some of the awkwardness and hiccups of virtual communication. The Simon Sinek Huddle had a few good ones:
- Recurring checkpoints: Introduce regular times for leader and peer recognition, sharing wins or challenges, naming something you’re grateful for, taking a moment for mindfulness -whatever resonates with your team.
- Time limits: Ask people to share or respond to a question in 2-3 minutes. Have a signal - raise three fingers, make a “T” with your hands - to indicate when there are 30 seconds remaining.
- Next speaker nominations: Rather than have the leader or meeting chair determine the order of speakers, or relying on volunteers, each speaker would call on a teammate of their choice to go next. Along with the time limits referenced above, this move can ensure that no one sucks up all the air and everyone gets a lungful.