How to engage your team with just a webcam and screen

Engaging your team with just a webcam and screen

Written by Matt Everson

A Digital/Agile HR Business Partner with a keen interest in politics, the environment and sustainability. Previous experience in Telecomms, Start-Up and Global Media. Matt lives in Reading with his fiance, Emma and puppy, Daphne.

Over the last 6 months or so, it’s become increasingly important for managers and leaders to ensure they are engaging their teams and this is important for 2 reasons.

1. It’s just the right thing to do morally as a leader. You need to ensure the individuals working in your team enjoy themselves as they spend the majority of their week with you.

2. We all know a more engaged team equals a higher performing team – you don’t need me to tell you that.

So, as we all settle in for the long winter ahead, I thought I’d share some tips and hints that I’ve picked up working across different industries and with different leaders about how to engage large teams, virtually.

My first big top tip is…

Have a short weekly round-up at the end of the week.

It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Share the wins of the week. An update on what’s going on across the team and business and recognise those who have done well that week. Above all, keep it informative but fun and don’t overdo it with slides!

Involve others too – nobody wants to hear one person go on and on, and by involving others you reduce the overhead on yourself as the leader.

Be clear on priorities with the team.

When you can’t be physically near the team, it’s important that everybody knows what’s important and what’s not. You want the top priorities known all across the team. And pretty much for people to be able to recite them!

With clear priorities it will mean that there is less conflict across the team that can go unseen when everybody is remote – this can really drag your team down!

Create zoom free time for your team and role model.

Part of engaging your team is allowing them and encouraging them to take a break from zoom.

Do some individual work and turn notifications off.

Teams will appreciate that you do this too. Remind people on a weekly basis of the zoom free time and ensure your direct reports managing the teams are following it too.

It will give you and your team, space to think, work and maybe even take a break if needed.

Encourage informal zoom 1-2-1s.

Ideally, you even want to incentivise these by allowing the coffee to be expensed – but this can’t happen everywhere, I get that.

Have team members get informal coffee with each other and not chat about work. It’s really important to be able to create relationships across large teams where they may only ever see people when they are asking for work from them etc.

If some people struggle to break the ice a bit; give out conversation starters for people. I.e. talk to me about your pets or where you live or what are you going to do when there is a vaccine?

Don’t pressure people back to the office.

I can’t stress this enough. Rumours will fly about virtually across your team if you don’t address it early.

Whenever Boris naturally u-turns on his latest idea, ensure your team that you’re not going to pressure people back to the office too early and that their safety is important to you.

This will keep your teams engagement through not having to overly worry about if they have to start commuting to work soon or not.

Don’t speak about mental health without role modelling action.

It’s a mistake that too many leaders fall into.

They’ll list of ‘why mental health is so important’ and get HR to send an email out to everybody. That’s the last you’ll hear of it.
Don’t bother if that’s all you’re going to do.

You should, on your weekly roundups, share what you as a leader have done to improve your mental health recently or what somebody in your team has done.

Normalise talking about it.

Your team will value this snapshot into your life and the vulnerability that you show will really help your team trust you.

I know, it’s difficult to keep a large team engaged throughout an ongoing pandemic with just a webcam and screen, but we’ve got to try for our own sanity but also for business success!

It’s a long winter ahead but 2021 is around the corner and hopefully good times too!

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