Maintaining Team Cohesion in a Crisis

Advice from DC The Computer Guy


Cohesion

co·he·sion

/kōˈhēZHən/

noun

  1. the action or fact of forming a united whole.

 


Integrating a New Family Member

My wife and I recently adopted a beautiful sheepadoodle puppy that we named Violet. We also have an 11 year old boxer named Lilly, a 7 year old border collie named Lucky, and 12 year old kitten named LuLu. Violet is very sweet and gentle, but she’s still a puppy and right now we are busy building cohesion between her and our other family members.

As you can see:

  • Lilly has no time for a puppy
  • Lucky is pouting because he’s lost his puppy status
  • Lulu just glares from afar with contempt

But we’ve been able to make progress in building family cohesion by spending time together and doing family activities.

When I write, I first like to come up with the “Why?” and by that I mean, what message am I trying to get across to the audience. The “Why?” for this article is to help others see how video conferencing can help build and maintain team cohesion during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How did I go from thinking about building cohesion within our pack to using video teleconferencing to maintain and build team cohesion?

To build cohesion within our pack we have to spend time together which is what’s needed to build cohesion within a team – spending time together strengthens both your teams bond and its ability to communicate between team members.

Communication is Key

I’m a firm believer that communication is key in building and maintaining a strong team those who communicate easily always seem to operate more efficiently. Over the years I’ve been a part of a variety of teams and have had many opportunities to observe my clients in action. Seeing successes and mistakes, I’d keep these in a mental list of lessons learned, taking note of what works and – often more importantly – what doesn’t work, when running a business. My more successful clients place an emphasis on the team and put mechanisms in place to ensure effective communication. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve found that small businesses who don’t communicate effectively with one another always seem to struggle!

COVID-19 has presented many challenges to running a business. Among the biggest is how to manage your team when everyone is operating from a different location. I find this personally challenging because when talking face-to-face I get a lot from non-verbal communication and without it I feel like I’m only getting about 50% of the conversation. I also believe that in-person conversation encourages participation and builds cohesion.

Video Conferencing Then and Now

Like many of you, prior to COVID-19 I would only occasionally be part of a GoToAssist or Zoom meeting. For me, video conferencing served as a means to facilitate meetings where the participants are geographically separated, and that’s where its usefulness ended. After a month of operating under the COVID-19 Paradigm, I’ve come to appreciate video conferencing and see that by utilizing it strategically we can continue to operate with in-person conversations while our team remains separated, allowing us to continue building team cohesion.

At CLARK we’re using Microsoft Teams for video conferencing.

Although I now feel it is the right choice for us, the decision to use Microsoft Teams was originally made because it was convenient. The platform was immediately available to us without having to sign up for another service or install software because it comes with Office 365 as part of our subscription. The best part of it though, was that we didn’t have to pick up any additional costs to roll it out – At a time like this, not picking up additional costs is critical!

So, with that in mind, here are some of the ways we are using Microsoft Teams:


Status meetings are now held via Teams

As we’ve grown I’ve found value in conducting status meetings, but more so now that my team is all spread out. For example, every Friday we have an All-Staff meeting where we follow a Standard Agenda. These meetings are designed to not only provide company updates, but to be a forum where we can review policies, provide job specific training, and give each employee an opportunity to bring up issues and updates. By using video conferencing to replace the in-person meeting, we are able to all remain on the same page.


New Hires & On-boarding is being held Virtually

We’ve hired two new employees since COVID-19 dictated that we operate under this New Paradigm. Several of us at CLARK are responsible for bringing a new team member into the fold, with each individual meeting with the new employee separately. In this Microsoft Teams has proven to be a valuable tool, allowing us to onboard a new employee while being in different locations. Each of us is able to schedule a Team Meeting with the new employee and then we can operate as if we’re in the same room, reviewing policies, conducting training, and performing all of the other tasks that have proven successful in on-boarding new CLARK employees.


We keep the phone lines available by utilizing Teams for calls among ourselves

One of the many adjustments we’ve made is a soft rule where calls between one another – whenever possible – are conducted through Microsoft Teams. Not only does this keep the phone lines open for clients, but it has the added bonus of allowing us to communicate better – I feel that face to face communication gives you a lot more than simple phones calls!

Video conferencing allows everyone to see one another, providing the non-verbal communication we’ve been missing and helps to build a stronger connection between team members!


We meet with partners and clients via Teams

Not only has video conferencing helped us to communicate more effectively between ourselves during this crisis, but we’ve found it to be effective with our partners and clients in aiding management and delivering on projects. As many of you are aware, technical builds and issues can be complicated, and a lot of the details get lost when you’re not communicating effectively. With the use of Teams, we’ve been able to strengthen our intra-project communication and are overall delivering more accurately with face-to-face meetings.


We’ve used it for “old-fashioned” conference calling

Another thing that we’ve discovered is that its not always practical to conduct a video conference meeting. I was thrilled when I discovered that with Microsoft Teams, I could hold a voice only conference call without needing to purchase an additional service. This is not to say there haven’t been a few challenges – the initial configuration for this service is not necessarily easy, so if you want help setting it upCall Us!


Overall, we here at CLARK have had a fairly easy transition into this New Paradigm and many things have contributed to that success, but video conferencing has helped us to maintain our team mentality. I believe that after this crisis is over, when I look back on it I’ll see that leveraging video conferencing helped us to better survive the business impact caused by COVID-19.