The most important fact when working together knows the people you are working with. Who are they and what makes them get up in the morning, what drives them, what values are they living by, why and how they are motivated.
Don't Ignore Relationships
You are spending a huge amount of time together and also want to trust each other. Therefore, you cannot leave the relationships out of the picture.
If you are simply not willing to share, I attest you a hard time working in any team.
In the first meetings I had with my teams, I asked them to draw a personal map, it's a Management 3.0 practice, and bring it to the meeting. A personal map is a mind map that contains branches that describe your life, like family, education, hobbies and so on.
With or without personal maps it's entirely up to you, what you are willing to share. Some people will talk freely for hours about their cats and dogs, the other only will share very little. The important part is that people share and open up with their teammates. Only by that, you will build trust and a sense of community in a team.
Feel free mix that game up here and there. I always ask to let someone else present a team member and ask questions about the personal map. There are more ideas in Managing for Happiness by Jurgen Appelo. This works well remote and in person.
Another effective exercise for remote teams are random breakout sessions. Running a bigger remote team, it can happen that people lose touch with each other or don't know about new joiners anymore. In a bi-weekly effort I like to randomly assign team members to breakout rooms in Zoom and let them talk for a while.
It can be awkward when you meet the first time and have no idea what to talk about. I gave them some ice-breaker questions with them. Those are great, as the name implies, to break the ice in a conversation and keep the team talking to get to know each other a little better.
Another positive outcome of this is, the team also gets trained in learning to consider everybody's opinion and make sure everybody has the chance to talk.
Here are some of the ice-breaker question I gave my team:
- What is getting you up in the morning?
- What would be your historical nickname? Ivan the terrible? Alfred the great?
- What in the world makes you excited to be alive in this period?
- If you could choose one invention to be done by you, what would it be and why?
- If you were a refrigerator, what would you hate holding?
- What's the strangest thing you have ever been asked in a meeting?
They may sound ridiculous and they are. But the serve the right purpose, they foster interaction, even if that interaction is talking about how stupid these questions are.
Keep it simple
There is more than one format of these meetings, little games, contests and so on. What works for my teams, doesn't necessarily work for you, but there is a one rule: Keep it simple. Don't try to overcomplicate it. You should do something that clicks with your team.
This games/exercises can be done regularly, especially when your organization changes frequently (and which one doesn't). Like I mentioned, I facilitate those meetings every other week, so people know what's coming and even look forward to it.
Let me know your thoughts. If you need help with getting to know your team or talking through some idea, feel free to contact me or book a meeting directly.