One of the biggest challenges faced by distributed teams is the one of team bonding. When your teams are co-located finding opportunities for them to get to know one another is relatively straightforward. Team lunches, workshops, team building days... all of these are possible to organize as often as the manager or team leader feels necessary. Co-located team members also have the benefit of being able to regularly instigate informal conversations. After all, it is natural and easy to ask about a co-worker’s family or weekend when you are both stood waiting for the coffee machine. Instigating the same conversations with geographically dispersed team members requires a formal and deliberate action. Whether by email, IM or phone, co-workers have to go out of their way to make contact and as a result, communication between virtual team members is usually always predominantly work-based. Agile Games for Distributed Teams helps create bonds.
But why is bonding so important?
Personal connection between team members helps to build trust, confidence and a better understanding of one another. This is especially important when you consider the impact of non-verbal communication when learning how to interpret messages. If you understand a little about a co-worker’s personality and style of speech then you are more likely to be able to interpret the meaning of their words, realise when they are joking, recognize that they naturally have an abrupt or serious manner etc. Without this understanding it is very easy to misinterpret messages, take offence or damage any chance of a bond between yourself and other team members.
So what can be done to help agile distributed teams to bond?
Depending on how widespread your team is, if possible you should try and facilitate co-workers meeting face to face. This may mean arranging for the most isolated team members to visit the main team location as regularly as your budget allows. It is also just as beneficial for the co-located team members to travel out to their geographically dispersed co-workers so that they can see the type of environment that they work in, and what communication with the main body of the team is like from ‘the other side’. This improves understanding between team members, helps to limit feelings of isolation and cement stronger and more considerate working relationships.
Treat team members equally
This may seem obvious, but when some team members see their manager face to face on a daily basis and others don’t it can be tricky to ensure that everyone is getting the same treatment. Often isolated team members feel ‘second-rate’ compared to those working in larger offices, and it is important that they realize that they are just as valuable and appreciated. Generally speaking, you can expect that the more isolated a team member is, the more attention they will require in order to keep them motivated and feeling part of the team. Failure to ensure that team members feel fairly and equally treated can prevent co-worker bonds from forming, damage existing bonds and overall be detrimental to employee engagement and productivity.
Be sensitive to language barriers and cultural differences
Again this is a large part of recognizing geographically dispersed team members as individuals and being sympathetic to their needs. Language barriers and cultural differences can cause communication difficulties in co-located teams, so it is easy to see why these problems can be escalated when co-workers are widespread. Implementing certain strategies can help overcome these barriers, for example by setting guidelines for phone/video conferences that state that no slang or localized phrases should be used. Providing a written agenda and minutes is also extremely useful for team members who may not share the same first language as the majority of their co-workers and who may struggle to keep up with verbal discussions. Cultural sensitivity, such as recognizing that some team members may be observing certain religious festivals, national holidays or even prayer times, can help those geographically dispersed team members to feel understood and supported.
Create a virtual break room
The equivalent of your main office break out room, canteen or kitchen, a virtual break room can be a great space for team members to participate in non-work chat without the risk of it disrupting any project-related communications. Encouraging co-workers to post a range of personal things such as ‘view from my window today’, ‘what I did this weekend’ or even information about what is happening in their part of the world can just open lines of conversation and get team members learning about one another and bonding. If it is a little slow to get started then consider some quizzes or puzzle games to break the ice.
Agile Games for Distributed Teams...
Learning through games has always been considered one of the best ways of teaching people new skills and even new behaviors. Fast forward to the 21st century and traditional games have largely been replaced by web-based browser varieties which are now being adopted by businesses and revolutionizing the way in which companies train and grow their employees. The use of gamification and agile games for distributed teams is just as beneficial for Agile practices and here at Agile Literacy we have created an innovative game that utilizes Agile methods to help unlock the potential of all teams, but has been particularly designed with agile distributed teams in mind. Gelling is an Agile Games for Distributed Teams. Agile games for distributed teams or co-located teams such as Gelling, are part of the serious games sweeping the elearning industry. The Gelling program requires team members to work together to solve puzzles and complete challenges, driving commitment and cooperation and building a bond between the participants. Agile games for distributed teams like Gelling are designed to teach and reinforce skills. Gelling is a platform where teams can learn to inspect and adapt.
The future of successful teams
Advances in technology have made it possible for employees to work on the same project from anywhere in the world, but to build successful and productive virtual teams it is absolutely vital to encourage teams to bond through whatever methods work for them. To learn more about Gelling, (Agile Games for Distributed Teams) helps create bonds or to find out how Agile practices can create strong bonds in your virtual team, contact us today for a no obligation consultation.
About our guest writer
I am an Agile coach with a passion to help teams to collaborate, strategize, cooperate and to deliver solutions that are in direct support of strategic initiatives. An agile transition is all about people and interactions and that is my concentration. I apply gamification, and proven techniques to motivate teams. Through these techniques I support teams to drive specific behaviors that contribute towards more effective, productive and harmonious working relationships regardless of the methodology or framework used.
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