By Mark Samuel
In the last three decades of facilitating high performance teams, I had never done a virtual training, and if you had asked me if it was possible to build a team with people located remotely in different parts of the city, country, or even world, I would have expressed my doubts.
But external business drivers like the coronavirus pandemic force us to make the impossible possible, and like so many other organizations, B STATE pivoted and made a game-changing paradigm shift, coming out the other side better than before. Not only was virtual team building just as effective as in-person, we actually discovered four surprising benefits to virtually building high performance teams.
1. Intimacy was gained, not lost, by going virtual
One difference of using a virtual format is that when people are sharing, it is all up close. I don’t need to strain to see someone on the other side of the room or worse, looking at the back of their heads sitting around a table in front of each other. In a virtual video environment, you can see facial expressions, engagement, and reactions up close and personal. Participants shared at the end of the program that they felt as close to others as they would in any in-person session.
2. Virtual Team Building is More Efficient and Saves Time
In addition to saving money and time not having to travel, the actual session itself was completed in less time than doing the session in person where I’d have to run from small group to small group to see what they were accomplishing on their flip charts. In a virtual team building session, we used Google Docs and Forms so that we could observe different groups’ progress at the same time and could easily intervene if they were off-track in any way. In addition, people came more prepared, more focused, and more willing to contribute.
3. Participation from all team members was more balanced
Many groups have a mix of participant personalities. In a virtual environment, there was less posturing, greater participation from everyone in attendance, and reluctance from any one member to dominate discussions. There was more of an equal sharing of ideas, inputs, and even challenges to the status quo offered by all participants in attendance.
4. The Team Session has demonstrated Sustainable Success
Even though there was no stated agenda for this team to stay together after the team session, all team members have continued to meet for the last four months to support and connect with one another. Even as everyone’s schedules have gotten busier, the team remains strong and connected.
We have since developed a second team, and the impact was very similar to the first virtual program we did. While people still like the idea of meeting in person, the effectiveness and efficacy of the virtual approach to building a high performing team in which execution improves and business outcomes are achieved in full alignment was accomplished.
In B STATE, we are always shedding our old, outdated mindsets, and the past few months were an opportunity to do just that as we adopted a new approach that is not only more cost effective, time efficient, and healthier for all participating team members, it’s also more effective as a team building approach.