We discussed the topic of routines for digital teams for a Prezi campaign in a short video in English. You will find the most important content in this blog article. You can also view the recorded webinar here. Have fun!
Note: We covered the topic in German in a webinar. You can find the blog article about it here.
Do you work full-time or partly remotely in your team? You know that team dynamics change over time. Tuckman publishes the model of five phases of teamwork. They describe how team dynamics can change over time. And I adopted this model to suit remote teams. This helps us find the five steps of remote team building.
My name is Jana Piske and I am a coach for remote and hybrid working teams and the founder of Fairlinked. Fairlinked is an institution that supports companies and NGOs on their way to digitize their collaboration and teamwork. I do this because remote hybrid people have the same need for social interaction and close collaboration as any other team. The difference, however, is that team building and social interaction don’t just happen as automatically as we’re used to from the offline world. Online team building requires commitment and a proactive leader to support your team throughout the process.
But what is the best way to support them there?
The five steps of remote team building can help you provide your team with exact support they need through different phases.
The forming phase
So in the first phase, you find your team just at the beginning of each new project. So as soon as you form a new project team or new members join an existing team, your team will find themselves in this forming phase. In this formation phase, you have a group of individuals on a journey to find their role.
So they explore what their role is in this group and how they want to work together. What characters are present, what skills are present and how they would like to fit into the team. It is especially difficult to talk to strangers. So start a conversation and get to know each other.
Starting a conversation online with someone you don’t know is especially difficult. And unless you need to communicate via video call, you might not even think twice about it. So your role is to facilitate the first step for the new members – you are the facilitator. This also includes setting the ground rules for initial communication and collaboration, providing them with an infrastructure and how they can work together.
The storming phase
Once you have mastered this phase, your team could move on to the stormy phase, because as I said before, you have laid the ground rules for communication and collaboration, maybe even without knowing what the needs, habits and forms of communication are for your team.
Maybe you haven’t worked with all team members. Maybe there are some people who are brand new. And every team has new rules, has developed different habits and different communication strategies. These different needs, habits and ideas, they create conflicts and differences and that’s great for you to work with them now, because people have different needs, habits and ideas about working together.
And it’s only natural that this should happen because you set the ground rules, not your team.
At this stage, your team discusses their differences and similarities and how they want to work together, just like they want to work remotely. It is particularly difficult online to identify conflicts when entering this phase, as conflicts and discussions are often hidden. Her role is to act as a facilitator and invite her team to go to the meta level.
The normalization phase
In the norming phase, the team adapts to the new communication rules. Establishing new routines is especially difficult since your team members often work fairly independently. In remote or hybrid work structures, a new routine must therefore be established. So your role here is to support them in implementing and following the rules of collaboration to develop a team culture.
Once you’ve done that, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. Welcome to the performing phase. That’s what every team leader dreams of. You have a goal-oriented team that works efficiently and independently. So they have the goal in mind, they know how to work, they know how to communicate and everything works great.
So the biggest challenge right now is your challenge because remotely it’s especially difficult to trust your team as you have very, very little insight and the teamwork and not involved in the day to day tasks and communication. If you find it hard to trust and leave behind and relax. So you have to learn to trust your team and sit back because what you don’t want to be here is a micromanager. Your role here is to be a mentor.
That means you need to make sure your team knows you’re available at all times.
At the end of every project work there is a farewell. Defining the right time to say goodbye is especially difficult because the people who work in different time zones or are involved differently may not have that real endpoint of a project. Maybe this is a lot of consecutive tasks that are very difficult to see where it really ends.
Their role is to somehow mark the end of the collaboration and create space to look back, evaluate the ups and downs, and most importantly, celebrate the success. That’s why I called your role here the event manager.
What does this mean for future-oriented companies?
Team building is becoming an explicit task for every manager and buying the best coffee machine or the best coffee is no longer good enough. In order to form a motivated and well-working team, you must recognize the phase and provide the necessary support.
This can be tricky because here this model shows us the stages like quite a circle, all smooth, but teams may jump back and forth.