Distributed team should not equal disjointed culture

Distributed team should not equal disjointed culture

by Nishadi Ranasinghe April 23, 2020

Distributed team should not equal disjointed culture

How to maintain your company culture within a remote team

Can culture be maintained in times of high stress?

Why it’s important to invest time and effort in your company’s culture in a Pandemic

Remote Teams do not equal a remote culture

How to maintain your company culture within a remote team

Where does company culture come from? How do you strengthen and maintain your company culture in the middle of a pandemic? Daniel Coyle, author of ‘The Culture Code’ gives the following key actions for building a strong team dynamic:-

  1. Build Safety
  2. Share Vulnerability
  3. Establish purpose

Once a group of individuals are focused around common goals, in an environment they can feel that they can share their shortcomings and enable the team to pick up the slack, a team culture is formed and can grow. All of this is challenging to achieve with a group that is physically present day to day, so how can we try and maintain that team culture when we are no longer able to interact in the same way?

Here are some practical ways to maintain the culture of a company within a remote team:-

  1. Understand the core of your culture

It is a leader’s responsibility to understand the culture of the company they have created. In a 2017 articleAnese Cavanaugh, author of Contagious Culture, says “Leaders don’t realize how much their own energy and presence affect others”. Whatever your company culture is, it is at this moment, when it is harder to communicate this, as a leader it is your job to exude your desired company culture.

If it is team that’s at the heart, start bringing your team together, often. Virtual drinks, virtual coffees, daily team meetings. Encourage those who think it might be strange to make a cocktail and sit at their computer, help them realise it’s for the good of the group. If your core value is quality, establish meetings focusing on work review, and where possible overemphasise and celebrate the quality of output once completed.

Understanding what your company stands for will help you to congregate around your joint purpose.

  1. Celebrate even the small successes

The key here is to decide how you celebrate when your core value is met and then do this regularly. If a number of teams are working on client deliverables, and a milestone is hit, make sure the group knows that this is appreciated. In his 2014 article, Keith Ferrazzi emphasises the need to ‘get people together to celebrate the achievement of short-term goals’, in alleviating feelings of low engagement.

It may not be as easy as announcing it on the office floor, but pop it on the group chat, or organise a catch-up call with the team just to show appreciation. Being remote means it’s hard to gauge when something has been well received and having an online pep talk might seem cringe-worthy, but it goes a long way when people are actively isolating.

  1. Keep everyone updated

By now you’ve probably realised the value of regular communication. Ensure you are using these sessions to give updates on general company news. It’s usually hard to keep everyone focused on the bigger picture at these times. People are often distracted by external factors. By ensuring everyone knows what the next milestone is and most importantly their part to play in it, it achieves the sense of shared goals, and deliverables. It also encourages the group to communicate with each other if they need help, given everyone has the same collective priorities.

It may seem unnecessary at this time to keep everyone informed of everything, especially if you have a number of large priorities, but setting aside time will bond the group. This will achieve a more efficient outcome in the long run.

  1. Take note of the teams wellbeing

Office small talk is gone and check-in’s by the water cooler are a distant memory. These opportunities to check in are important to give a group a sense of being supported. After all our ‘work families’ tend to be with us through the ups and downs of life, births, marriages and deaths. To recreate this sense of community dedicate time to checking in with your colleagues. Ask people how they are doing, and how the current climate is affecting them. These conversations within physical proximity are easy, but need to be cultivated in a remote environment. Make no mistake, adopting a open forum will build trust within your team, enabling people to share their wider concerns. It also enables people to see that their worries are often common to the whole group.

In her 2017 article, Donnabeth Aniban quotes Edward M. Hallowell who says ‘Worrying alone does not have to be toxic, but it tends to become toxic because in isolation we lose perspective. We tend to globalize, catastrophize, when no one is there to act as a reality check’. Today when isolation is an enforced reality, we’ll all need a space to detox and share.

If you feel like you haven’t spoken to someone, reach out, no matter how busy you think they are. They’ll appreciate the thought. Tell people about your day, share a thought process and how you are getting through this time. The likelihood is that they are feeling the same way.

To maintain your culture at this precise moment is more about moving away from the normal social interactions that we are used to, and making the effort to connect with co-workers whilst working apart. Over communicating the importance of your values, celebrating team successes, keeping everyone updated and even understanding how everyone is doing might seem unnecessary but ultimately its easy to forget when there is so much external noise. Now is the time to really bed in the culture you work hard to maintain when in close proximity. When our new normal has been established, its these times when people will remember ‘What our company did in the Pandemic’. Make sure the answer is ‘Put its people first’.

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