Building extraordinary teams in the ever-changing age of telework may seem like an intimidating goal, leaving you unsure of where to begin. However, understanding the factors that can help foster productivity and communication within remote teams is an essential component for achieving business success.
Remote teams encounter unique challenges in maintaining productivity and excellence. Striking the delicate balance between individual needs and team dynamics becomes important in creating an exceptional work environment virtually or in-person. In this blog post, we will explore key strategies to optimize remote team productivity while embracing the distinctive differences and challenges presented by telework. By implementing these invaluable insights, your team can sustain a high level of engagement and collaboration, ensuring that you remain an extraordinary team even within the virtual realm.
Join Kevin Coray, an expert on extraordinary teams and co-author of Extraordinary Groups: How Ordinary Teams Achieve Amazing Results ⇗, as he shares his personal story and invaluable insights into fostering productivity in the virtual office. Get ready to unlock the secrets to success in remote work and discover practical strategies for optimizing team performance.
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“From Losing Out to Standing Out: What We Know About Extraordinary Teams”
Kevin Coray’s personal insights: Unveiling virtual Team frustrations
Imagine attending a retreat for a scientific grant-making organization and being greeted with an unexpected surprise – an incredible fashion show! The fashion show began with enthusiastic staff members taking on the role of MCs, diving into a lively discussion about the new closet section dedicated to the telework wardrobe. Once they discussed their business and work casual attire, they moved on to discuss the new telework sections of their closets and the weekly challenge of laying out their wardrobe for their telework days. Just before co-workers began to cross the cat-walk in pajamas, workout clothes, bike pants, grass-stained garden clothes, weight-lifting attire, scarves to hide unkempt hair, satin robes over blue jeans, and clashing combos of every type, the MCs mentioned that one of their pet peeves about telework was that there was no one to tell them how cute they looked…
Fast forward… The purpose of the one-day off-site for this already extraordinary organization was to sustain productivity and excellence while fully embracing flexible work schedules. Most of the work that the staff does is completed in teams. Yet, over 90% of the workforce members have some form of flexible schedule, telework, or other flexible hours agreements. As a group, they clearly love the flexibility that these arrangements offer individuals but recognize the privilege and responsibility with which such schedules come. Staff members commented that when they are in the office, there are many times when very few of their co-workers are present. They have come to grips with many of the challenges and wanted to co-create alternatives and solutions for other challenges.
As I listened to these amazing teams and individuals describe their challenges in balancing individual needs and team needs, I was struck by how their issues fell into a couple of the key areas that distinguish ordinary teams from extraordinary ones.
Navigating challenges in remote Team management; Boost remote team productivity
Telework presents unique challenges for remote team members’ productivity, requiring adjustments in communication and meeting practices. Questions arise regarding rescheduling meetings, the inclusion of virtual members, interpreting body language in virtual communication, and ensuring virtual team members feel heard and acknowledged.
It’s important to ensure that virtual team members feel remembered, heard, and included in discussions. Teams that have a high degree of telework risk moving down a rung on the continuum of extraordinariness, from extraordinary to solid or from solid to ordinary. No one wants to lose this productive edge. Much of the solution lies in bringing the remote participants into their presence. Below are some of the challenges I noticed when discussing the apparent challenges of working from home.
Challenges of Telework:
- Staying fully engaged when not present at the work site – AKA lack of productivity
- Embracing differences and respecting the shift in communication for virtual team members
- Need for rescheduling meetings for teleworking members
- Ensuring inclusion and remembering virtual team members in invitations
- Understanding body language cues in virtual communication
- Ensuring virtual team members feel heard and acknowledged
- Effective sharing of work products via technology
Additionally, finding effective ways to share work products through technology is essential for productive virtual meetings and remote teams. The list of considerations and strategies for successful telework continues, highlighting the need for adaptable approaches in remote collaboration.
Extraordinary Teams Are Not Just High Performing
They also provide opportunities for personal transformation while delivering outstanding results. In the development of the Extraordinary Teams Inventory ⇗, we’ve identified five characteristics of extraordinary teams in our work: compelling purpose, profound learning, full engagement, strengthened relationships, and embracing differences.
Exploring Two Key Characteristics of Extraordinary Teams in the Virtual Work Environment
1. Full Engagement
- Change Meetings 101 to Extraordinary-meetings 101. We all know meetings need agendas. But too few have one. Virtual participation makes the need for an agenda that is visual and tactile even more important. Further, the agenda needs to recognize and address the shape-shift that virtual attendance brings. Specifically, build the agenda in such a way that teleworkers have actions and pre-work prior to the meeting and have a specific time on the agenda.
- Then take an embodiment check. When the meeting starts, acknowledge the virtual participants and bring everyone present by centering the group on purpose. What I mean is go around and let each member acknowledge how they are feeling or what their sensations are right now. As a leader, model this by going first. Turn off your cell phone and put it away, and say that you are doing that in the process. Verbally bring yourself present, mentioning what you are letting go of to focus on this meeting and its purpose.
- Make the invisible visible. When discussions are held, move from a free for all to a structured format. One novel idea that emerged was a flat-Stanley approach—put up a photo of the virtual worker at a seat at the table, and as the discussion rotates systematically around the table, she has a formal place in it.
2. Embracing Difference
- Conflict is hard face-to-face. It’s harder when we can’t see each other and react to body language. When conflict is apparent, facilitate the virtual presence of each other. Say how you are feeling or what sensation you are having. Slow the conversation down to add that embodiment checks to each participant’s engagement in the higher conflict discussion. Say something like “I’m feeling uncomfortable about …” and then make your statement. End by asking the virtual participant to state how they are feeling about the position. Something like, “So, how does that sit with you?” Open space for “seeing the remote participant.
- Bring patience and appreciation into the discussion. Having technology filters the finer points of hearing and understanding people can contribute to less tolerance. Figure out ways to Don’t just talk. Share real-time visuals by taking pictures with your smartphone and sharing these across the telework gap.
- Sub-group including the virtual member in a smaller group. Collaboration is the hallmark behavioral indicator of embracing difference. So, maybe on a separate conference line where they are actively engaged with fewer group members, have the virtual team member give the sub-group report out to the larger group.
Want to learn more about the five characteristics of extraordinary teams? Discover more in HRDQ’s Extraordinary Teams Inventory 2.0 ⇗
Facilitating extraordinary teams and remote team productivity
Yes, extraordinary teams have the ability to achieve tangible results. But what makes them so spectacular is that they do something ordinary teams cannot…they cultivate an exciting, collaborative environment that’s built upon mutual trust, respect, and engagement.
As team members, individuals experience a positive personal change—and that means your organization reaps the benefits of better team performance and employees with increased skills, connections, loyalty, and enthusiasm for their work.
In the age of telework, it is essential to adapt and optimize remote team productivity. By implementing the strategies outlined in this blog post, you can elevate your team’s performance and create an extraordinary virtual work environment. Embrace the challenges and opportunities of remote work, and unlock the full potential of your team’s productivity and collaboration.
Unlock the secrets of extraordinary teams in our captivating webinar. Discover specific strategies to propel your team to new heights, understand the transformative power of being extraordinary, measure your team’s performance, and uncover the true value of tangible and intangible outcomes.
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About the Author
Kevin Coray, Ph.D., is an author, organization development consultant, industrial and organizational psychologist, master somatic coach, and shared leader of the Extraordinary Teams Partnership ⇗. With expertise in large-scale organizational change, strategic planning, and executive teams, Kevin’s client work is grounded in appreciative inquiry and informed by decades of research and consulting on extraordinary teams. He has led program evaluation, strategic planning, core business redesign, and team development initiatives while also serving as the president of Coray-Gurnitz Consulting ⇗, a Washington D.C. firm recognized with the Washingtonian’s Great Places to Work Award. Holding a Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Kevin was formerly a faculty member at George Washington University. He is a co-author of HRDQ’s Extraordinary Teams Inventory 2.0 ⇗
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