Is it possible for us to be close even as we have been forced farther apart?

I hesitated conducting leadership team work in the early parts of the pandemic because I hoped that we would get back to normal much sooner. I always felt that this kind of work had to happen in person in a shared environment. How could people ‘feel’ the energy in the room if they were not in the room?

In the past, we would create an environment that removed the typical barriers. Desks and laptops were taken out of the equation so that we could truly ‘see’ each other. Phones were turned off so there would be no distractions. These steps were important as we moved into some of the trust building exercises that teams often need before they move into the ‘real’ work of strategic planning or launching a new initiative.

When we realized this was going to last for a while and companies were still doing business and teams still needed help, we knew we had to give virtual leadership team work a try.

We still start by setting a different tone than the ‘normal’ meeting. We might get everyone to close their eyes and do some deep breathing. We often set ground rules for this new kind of session. Things like:

  •   Be present & curious
  •   Remove or minimize distractions
  •   Everyone participates and everyone encourages those who are not participating
  •    Keep breathing
  •   Keep your camera on

The list is always longer and it will be different for every group. We get important work done in these sessions. The kind of work that creates some discomfort, encourages learning and growth and then brings us closer together. Every group has different needs and every individual has a unique profile. We conduct an assessment on each participant before we begin the group work, which allows us to customize the session more accurately. For instance, if we have someone who is really tuned in to what’s going on with the team but they lack confidence and don’t like speaking, we encourage them to participate early on to highlight their unique strengths.

When we see people on the team fully expressing themselves with watery eyes, we know we are on to something deeper and important. It’s in these moments that I am humbled by the power of the human spirit and how one person can move an organization to be better. The fact that it’s all done on zoom is the miracle of our times.