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Managing teams is always a balancing act:  How do you get team members to work independently and cooperatively at the same time? How do you get team members to do what is in their own best interest while also doing what is in the team’s best interest?

The COVID-19 pandemic has added a few new wrinkles:  How do you make people feel like they are part of a team when they are physically isolated from each other?  How do you keep morale high when overall stress levels are higher than in pre-pandemic times?

Now, more than ever, focusing on the people side of management is crucial.  Although it is tempting to join a web-conference call and immediately focus on problem-solving, this ultimately can have detrimental effects on team spirit, personal fatigue, and morale. Here, then, are four tips for how to keep everyone feeling valued as team members while building team spirit and reducing stress.

  1. Pause for the personal: Take about five minutes at the start of each call to talk about what is going on in people’s personal lives.  You do not have to hear from everybody on each call.  Just ask one or two people questions like “What did you do this weekend?” or “What is the best new tip you’ve discovered for dealing with the quarantine?” can spur conversations that share ideas or help people to discover common interests that bond them to each other.
  2. Celebrate successes: Has your team just completed a major milestone or project?  Remember to celebrate and thank them for their hard efforts.  In the pre-pandemic times, this might have been a group lunch, happy hour, or dinner.  Go virtual with the celebration.   Publicly recognize those who went above and beyond.  Invite your customers to join and share their appreciation.
  3. Plan the party: Keep your virtual parties as celebrations by having a structured agenda.  Casual gatherings over food or drink work well in the face-to-face world, because people can mingle with each other and hold separate conversations simultaneously.  In the virtual world, everyone hears everybody’s conversations or, if people talk contemporaneously, nobody hears anything.  That means that some structure is usually required and appreciated.  Think about easy games you can play, topics you can use as go-arounds, brief thank you speeches, and prizes you can give.
  4. Mind the minutes: In this busy world of ours, everyone is pressed for time.  If you make the celebration too long, people either will not come or will leave early.  Keep your celebration to 1 -1.5 hours for maximum impact.

Want more tips on how to manage projects or teams more effectively?  Contact Comprehensive Learning Solutions for training or advisory services on project management.

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