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Leading Remotely: 5 Ways to Build Team Cohesion

September 28, 2020, Brett Cooper

Productive, cohesive, emotionally intelligent, and engaged… sound like the perfect team? The author shares insight (and actionable, practical tips!) that can help you get there.

The pandemic-related changes to shift schedules and a surge in remote work have managers and leaders looking for new ways to maintain a cohesive team. While creating team cohesion is not a new challenge, there’s little doubt that the pandemic has made it more important than ever to focus on. Without the interaction that can happen naturally when we are all working in the office or at the shelter, we need to intentionally create team-building opportunities to better handle the challenges we all face. These challenges include the business issues we’ve always had, and the newfound struggles associated with working from home and doing shift schedules.

Now is the time to engage your team in building the practices to support each other. Teams are more successful than a group of individuals. During the strange time we are in, we need to build a structure and experiences that can support each other and create the results needed to go forward. 

5 behaviors you and your team can work on

Building team cohesion isn’t really “difficult.” It’s just hard work because it’s something that requires focus and dedication. Here are five specific behaviors to cultivate:

  • Build deeper levels of trust and openness with each other in order to strengthen team communication, partnership, and relationships
  • Engage in healthy conflict around ideas, which will help the team renew shared vision, values, and goals 
  • Drive commitment to decisions that form a basis for personal, team, and organizational action plans
  • Hold each other accountable to the commitments that are made
  • Focus everyone on shared results, setting aside personal agendas for the good of the team

Pick one of these next steps and get started

There is a wide range of activities and exercises that will help you embrace each of these five behaviors. I go over them in detail in The Association’s Certificate in Organizational Leadership program. But in the meantime, here are a few ideas that you can start with today:

  • Set aside time during team meetings, even if they are on Zoom or Skype, to share successes and challenges that people are feeling. Research on teams shows that creating psychological safety is one of the keys to building a successful team.
  • Create (or update) your ground rules for the pandemic with your team. Make sure they include a full range of what you all expect. Importantly, don’t just highlight what you don’t want. Include human- focused agreements, like making allowance for interruptions from family or pets as teammates join meetings from their homes. 
  • Share the results of the team’s efforts broadly and call attention to successes and accomplishments (even the “small ones”). Life is more stressful than normal, and giving people an opportunity to celebrate will make the work environment better for all. 

*Members of The Association get 33% off registration for The Certificate in Organizational Leadership

Additional Resources Like This

Upcoming webinar, 9/30: Effective Internal Communication: The Problem, Some Solutions & The (Virtual) Meeting
Blog: Workplace Culture Agreements: 4 Quick Q&As
Webinar Recording: Positive Perseverance: Leading During Crisis

About Brett Cooper
Brett M. Cooper is the President of Integris Performance Advisors, a professional development firm he co-founded to expand the existence of healthy organizations and great places to work. Brett is the performance consultant for San Diego Humane Society, and earned an MBA in Finance from NYU's Stern School of Business, and a Bachelor's degree in Marketing from San Diego State University. He is one of the instructors for The Association's Certificate in Organizational Leadership.

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