Lauren Parsons explains how to use social connection meetings to maintain a close-knit team while working remotely
Teams that are highly connected, and where there is a high level of trust, have less conflict, better communication, higher staff satisfaction and improved engagement, all of which leads to lower staff turnover and higher productivity.
Social Connection Meetings
Social connection meetings are vital to ensure staff stay connected as a team. They can be informal such as connecting to do the daily newspaper quiz, creating a virtual water cooler or having after work ‘virtual drinks.’ To really foster a close-knit team however, having structured connection meetings, such as what Simon Sinek’s team call ‘huddles’, are a powerful way to create an opportunity for growth, learning and building understanding of one another. You can include education or inspiration into these meetings as well as a chance for everyone to contribute.
How to run a fantastic connection meeting
Connection meetings can be done equally well in person as online, or a combination of both. They work extremely well via zoom or similar video conferencing software, where everyone can see/hear one another.
To be successful you need to make these meetings a priority. Ensure that your senior leadership team are fully supportive. Create a high-trust environment where people can share how they’re really doing.
To initiate these connection meetings, pick two or three colleagues who you know will be supportive of the idea and great at getting others on board. Discuss how you will tweak and adapt the process above to specifically suit your organisational culture.
Plan the timeframes you’ll stick to and be sure to assign a timer and explain how they will display the times up signal. Brainstorm great opening activities, a question of the day and a closing message together and how you will set the scene and establish ground rules.
Launch the idea explaining the benefits and creating a safe and positive environment where people are encouraged to share honestly. At the close of the first meeting nominate people to take on the roles of leading the next one and continue this process moving forward, creating a regular rhythm of connection meetings at intervals to suit your team.
Practical Tips for Running a Social Connection Meeting
1. Set the scene and create energy
Have one person start the session with an activity such as an active game, waiata (song) or some sort of brain gym exercise get to everyone energised.
2. Get present
Have a second person lead everyone through a breathing technique, or mindfulness practise for 1-2 minutes to ensure everyone is present and focused.
3. Share positives
Open the floor for everyone to share ‘high fives’, providing specific praise to someone else in the team. People always do more of what they are praised for, so this simple practise will have a dramatic effect on your team performance, and will strengthen relationships.
Have another person facilitate, asking each team member to share on a specific topic (e.g. what’s been the highlight of your week? What were your highs/lows this week? What have you read lately that inspired you? What’s one thing you know that you wish others knew? What’s one thing some people here don’t know about you?) Pick a question of the day wisely and watch what unfolds. Have a timer with a pre-arranged signal to indicate when each person’s time is up (e.g. 2 minutes.)
5. Check in
Once everyone has had a turn to speak, invite everyone to share one word to describe how they’re feeling now and one thing they’re looking forward to today (this can be typed into the chat for example) or if time allows you could go around verbally again.
6. Close on a positive
Have a different person wrap up with an inspirational quote, a joke or a story to finish on a positive note.
7. Finish on a high
Finish by taking a deep breath in and all stretching your arms up into a wide V or adopting a ‘power pose’ that you like (see Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk for details). Body posture directly affects how you feel so this will help everyone end the session on a high.
Social connection meetings can change your workplace culture, by helping prevent bullying, conflict and toxic behaviours. They will help ensure a close-knit team dynamic where everyone can perform at their best.