There’s an old Aretha Franklin song called, “Who’s Zooming Who?”
These days, the answer is … everybody’s zooming everybody.
We aren’t working side by side much anymore. We aren’t meeting face to face.
What are the implications of this shift for the health of your company’s culture … that amorphous intangible that’s so important to how well your organization functions and how happy and fulfilled your people tend to be?
Well, it may seem obvious, but it doesn’t exactly bolster the sense of being part of a team engaged in an important mission and committed to realizing a compelling vision. That’s especially true for new hires, many of whom have never even met the people they’re working with!
There has to be a tendency to feel as if you’re just doing your own thing, a piece worker, toiling in a vacuum … a spoke disconnected from the wheel. And that’s not good.
Bonding is a big deal. A sense of camaraderie is hugely important to team effectiveness.
How do you bond remotely? How can you feel fully integrated into the mix of what’s going on when you aren’t physically integrated?
We’re all trying to figure that one out. And while we bemoan the inability to be together, let’s take a moment to thank goodness we have Zoom, WebEx and the like, or we’d really be isolated.
But these services offer us something beyond just the electronic connection … something we wouldn’t get at work.
When you have people together in a workplace, they’re seen as members of the work team. Their personal and family lives are often invisible. That leaves us with a one dimensional view of people … what role they play and how they behave at work.
That leaves out the rest of the person.
With teleconferencing, we’re zooming right into people’s homes … seeing what’s on the walls, hearing the dog bark or the baby cry. It’s humanizing.
Smart leaders can take advantage of that more intimate perspective on people’s lives to help humanize our connection with each other, thereby enhancing team spirit and cohesion.
Ask questions. How long have you been in that house? Is your husband working at home too? What do you do for fun when you’re not working? Are you wearing pants?
Just kidding on that last one, but seriously, have conversations.
And while you’re having conversations, make it a point to reinforce the basics. What’s your organization’s purpose, its mission, its vision? What are our core values? What kind of culture do we want to build or maintain?
I mean, if you can’t talk about these things in person and they aren’t underscored everyday through examples of behaviors in the workplace, you might want to double up on the messages online.
And that shouldn’t be a one-way thing. Monologues won’t get the job done. Encourage robust dialogue.
The bottom line is this. For an enterprise of any kind to perform to its potential, the people within it need to feel a strong sense of connection and shared mission.
We have to feel as if we really know the people we’re working with. Do we understand where they’re coming from, even if we disagree with them?
Can we trust them? Do we like them? Can we relate to some things about them? Is there a good vibe there?
Do we get energy from working with them? Are we true teammates, pointed in the same direction, trying to achieve the same goals?
And the only way to know these things is through interaction. If it can’t be in person, take the time to enhance this kind of familiarity via your teleconferencing.
Put the getting-to-know-you, “people” side of the business and your cultural imperatives on the agenda. Put the why-we’re-here on the agenda … not just the pressing business of the day.
That’s how you build connection and strengthen your culture in an online world.