How to Be Grateful Even When TImes are Hard

On Being Grateful: An Asking For a Friend Interview with Dan Rockwell

We’re excited to share this special Thanksgiving edition of Asking For a Friend. Karin interviews Dan Rockwell, Leadership Freak, about how to be grateful– even during difficult times.

In this episode, we unpack some of Dan’s recent and inspirational writing on gratitude, including the seven impossibilities of gratitude.

The next time you see red, look around for something to be grateful for.

Avoid These Barriers to Grateful

An Excerpt from Dan’s 7 Impossibilities of Gratitude

#1. Worry.

You can’t worry and be grateful in the same moment.

Don’t worry about overcoming worry. Just notice and acknowledge benefit or advantage every day.

#2. Complaining.

You can’t complain and practice gratitude with the same breath.

Tip: Breathe in deeply and breathe out ‘thank you’ like a silent meditation.

#3. Anger.

You can’t be grateful and angry at the same time.

About Dan Rockwell, Leadership Freak

Dan Rockwell – Leadership Freak – writes a daily leadership blog that is read on every country on Earth, except the Western Sahara.

Inc Magazine recognizes Dan as a top 50 leadership expert and top 100 leadership speaker. The American Management Association lists Dan as a top 30 leader in business.

Dan was brought up on a dairy farm in Central Maine where he learned to get his chores done. He currently lives in Central Pennsylvania with his High School sweetheart.

Dan expresses his passion for leadership and organizational development by giving presentations and coaching leaders.

See Also:

A Thanksgiving Challenge

How are You Going to Make it Through the 2020 Holidays (Jesse Lyn Stoner)

5 Ways to Show Gratitude to Your Employees (Cindy McGovern)

How leaders can find the fun during the slog

How Leaders Can Find the Fun During the Slog

Find the fun with authenticity, surprise, and variety.

Robert unmuted his microphone, leaned into the camera, and asked in a near-whisper: “How can we find the fun again?”

We were facilitating at the Inc 5000 Vision Conference, helping leaders navigate the challenges of a remote, socially-distanced workforce. Heads nodded. And a sea of sympathetic half-smiles and hopeful eyes filled the Zoom screen.

He continued, “My company culture was built on frequent social gatherings and my people draw energy and encouragement from one another. The fun isn’t window-dressing, it’s an essential part of their productivity–and without it, I worry about our future.”

As the pandemic’s socially distanced slog continues into the winter months in the northern hemisphere, you know how important Roberts’s question is for your team’s morale and productivity.

4 Ways to Find the Fun Despite the Slog

As we’ve talked with leaders around the world who can find the fun, four characteristics emerged.

1. Authenticity and Vulnerability

Vulnerability isn’t ‘fun’ per se, but it’s essential. Starting with “fun” without acknowledging reality feels disconnected or manipulative.

Transparency from leaders and team members about their feelings, acknowledging the reality you and your team face–these build trust and credibility. They also lighten the load just a bit.

And to get real for a moment: the pandemic slog is real. We’re living it. Close family and friends are sick. Friends, family, and clients have lost friends and family. Along with you, we long for the days when we can once again gather safely with loved ones or conduct training and strategic facilitation in person.

Those days will come again, but right now we face the slog. Frankly, it stinks and everyone’s tired of it. And …we can do it.

Over and over again we’ve seen leaders care for their teams, inspire morale, motivation, and breakthrough performance. This is hard; and you’re up for the challenge.

2. Varied and Individualized

In our conversations with leaders who are able to find the fun, a recurring theme is variety. The virtual happy hour was fun the first time, but the tenth one feels obligatory and routine.

How can you mix up your routine remote activities?

Perhaps you could start every team meeting with a different activity? For more social or fun activities, keep it fresh. Many teams have incorporated online games, themed events, and professional development into their mix of recognition and connection.

Another important aspect of variety is individualization. Recognize the differences in your team so you see and connect with people as they are. One CEO shared an effective way to do this in her company: periodically they take half-days for self-directed professional development, followed by brief sharing about what they chose and what they learned.

With everyone choosing their focus and learning, then sharing it with their colleagues, the activity is both individualized, varied every time, and connects team members more closely with one another in areas of passion.

3. Anticipation

An endless horizon stretching ahead forever is discouraging and, on top of pandemic-related anxiety, can lead to significant mental health challenges.

Give people something to look forward to will break up the monotony and energize performance. But don’t schedule everything – leave room for …

4. Surprise and Delight

One of the most powerful ways to find the fun is with the element of surprise and delight. Create moments of the unexpected where people feel genuinely seen and valued.

Recently, a client had a coffee meeting with Karin. He had pastries delivered to our home office ahead of the meeting. It was so unexpected–we rarely have pastries, and it brought so much joy.

Another client ordered a pizza to arrive at her team member’s home just as our meeting was wrapping up. That pizza brought so much joy that he sent us a picture just to celebrate the moment.

Surprise and delight don’t have to be about food. When people show up for a routine meeting, what can you do that would delight them? Make them smile and say “Wow, that was cool!”

You don’t need to rely on surprise and delight every week. If you do, it becomes routine–and the endless horizon returns. But every few weeks, how can you make people smile, feel seen, and do it in a way they aren’t expecting?

Your Turn

The slog is real. But so is your team’s resilience and ability to persevere. You can find the fun and energize your people with a combination of authenticity, variety, anticipation, surprise, and delight.

We’d love to hear from you: As you lead through these challenging circumstances, how are you renewing your team’s energy and morale?

Leading While Green Interview Pierre Quinn

Leading While Green – Interview with Pierre Quinn

Your new leaders – the ‘green’ ones, are an incredible resource and the literal future of your business. If you are a new leader, the lessons to learn and the natural influence you see from more senior leaders can feel overwhelming. In this inspiring episode, join David and new-leader expert Pierre Quinn for a discussion about how you can help yourself grow quickly … and how you can set up your new leaders to thrive and experience breakthrough success.

Connect with Pierre:

LinkedIn
Facebook
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Get Pierre’s Book:

Leaders share about executive development

Frontline Festival: Leaders Share about Executive Development

In this month’s Frontline Festival, top leadership experts share their perspectives and insights on executive development.  Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors.

Executive Development on a Personal Level

Eileen McDargh of The Resiliency Group shares When You Lose Your Why.  What happens when you lose your WHY? Life becomes a chore, work is a dead end and you lose your passion. Both executives and their teams must find their WHY in order to find their purpose. Follow Eileen.

 

Paul LaruePaul LaRue of The Upwards Leader asks, Are You a Competent Leader? Too often we measure competence in technical and hard skills. But there’s strong evidence to show that competency in soft skills makes for more effective leadership Follow Paul.

 

John Stoker of DialogueWORKS shares Why Do People Become Defensive? Six Factors That Influence Defensiveness. I am frequently asked, “Why do people become so defensive?” The key to understanding others’ defensiveness is understanding ourselves. Here are a few reasons people become defensive. Follow Jon.

 

S. Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture shares a Culture Leadership Charge: Leadership Audit.  A great practice for all leaders to embrace is to conduct a regular audit of their leadership efforts and impact, especially in unprecedented times. Follow Chris.

 

Beth BeutlerBeth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited reminds us that we are all growing and developing every day, in one direction or another. She asks, are we being intentional to think well as we process the situations that come up in both our personal and professional lives? It helps to have trusted friends and/or colleagues with which to have ongoing discussions, rather than just allow life to “happen” without processing it in a healthy way.  If you don’t have those friends, look at people you admire and see if they might be willing to engage with you on a topic or two, and see where the friendship goes from there. Follow Beth.

Ken Downer of Rapid Start Leadership shares, Cleaning House: 5 Leadership Messes to Clean Up Before You Let Neighbors In. Leadership is a people business at heart, and it can get pretty messy from time to time. Like maintaining a house, good leaders recognize that unattended leadership messes can smell up the whole place. Here are five of the worst, and what to do about them. Follow Ken.

Jon Verbeck of Verbeck Associates shares Budget Time – Time to Reflect, Review, Refocus. It’s budget season; time to get your budget process started and formalize your plan for 2021. Before you panic and say, But I’m Not an Accountant! remember that all executive leaders need to develop at least a basic understanding of the financial outlook for the companies they own or help to manage to make wise decisions! Use this as an opportunity to learn and enhance your leadership skills. Follow Jon.

Michelle CubasMichelle Cubas of Positive Potentials shares Set the Pace for Executive Development. All bets are off on the way we did business in 2019. This is a perfect time to reassess our definitions of success, leadership, and expression of values. A small company must define what it means to be an executive within its context. Here are questions you can begin to ask . . .  Follow Michelle.

 

 

Executive Development for your Team

Nate Regier of Next Element Consulting shares Seven Timeless Leadership Principles Revealed During Crisis. Here are seven timeless leadership principles that were real before the pandemic, but certainly have been revealed more clearly during this crisis. Embracing them makes you a better leader (and happier in general.) Follow Nate.

 

Rachel Blakely-Gray

Rachel Blakely-Gray of Patriot Software shares How to Come Up with an Executive Development Game Plan. An executive development program can help grow business leaders’ professional skills through ongoing training and education. Get started on creating your executive development plan with these three steps. Follow Rachel.

 

 Dr. Artika Tyner of Planting People Growing Justice Leadership shares Women Leading Change: Making a Difference in the World.  Women play a critical role in leading change. Now is the time to help women executives to embrace their unique leadership qualities, foster their leadership development, and make a difference in the world. Follow Artika.

Robyn McLeodRobyn McLeod of Thoughtful Leaders Blog presents The Ugly Truth about Delegation – and How to Do it Well, where she shares that by delegating projects and tasks to others, you provide the opportunity to develop new skills, build knowledge, and gain greater visibility within your organization. Follow Robyn.

 

David GrossmanDavid Grossman of The Grossman Group shares Motivate with Feedback: Focus on the 4 Fs of Feedback (and the Future). Sharing feedback with colleagues is a critical part of working together successfully. While some folks hesitate to provide feedback, others understand the value in the outcome when it’s done well: better employee performance, motivation and stronger relationships. When you’re ready for a productive conversation, follow this proven methodology, “The Four Fs of Feedback.” Follow David.

Chip Bell Chip R. Bell of the Chip Bell Group gives us How Innovative Leaders Care and Feed Skunks. Innovation is nurtured and cultivated by leaders who create an atmosphere of safety and trust. The result is a climate of learning and discovery, all crucial for breakthroughs and creativity. Follow Chip.

 

Shelley RowShelley Row of Shelley Row Associates gives us Three Reasons Do-It-Yourself Leadership Development is a Bad Business Decision. It seems like a good idea to use your existing senior staff to develop and conduct leadership training for mid and up-and-coming engineer managers. After all, you’re already paying them and they have proven leadership skills. Why not use them to train others? They may be proven leaders but are they proven educators? Are they trained in designing content to achieve specific behavioral goals? Are they skilled in creating a program that is engaging, memorable and “sticky?” Do they have time to provide follow-up?  These are important questions to consider. Follow Shelley

Are you a leadership writer? We’d love to have you join us with your articles, videos, podcast episodes, or simply your best thinking on the topic (even if you don’t have additional content to link.) Our topic for December is Best of 2020. Click here to submit your thoughts and content!

How to exit your job with grace

How to Exit Your Job With Grace and Support Your Successor

How do you exit your job with grace?

You’re on to the next thing. Perhaps it was your call. Maybe not.

Maybe you’re happy. Perhaps you’re not.

In fact, perhaps “not happy” is an understatement.

But it’s not about you. It’s about the mission and your team.

And the important work ahead in this time of crisis, ambiguity, and change.

How will you prepare your successor to do what must be done next – without you?

Because the mission is bigger than you.

Observations From a Few Folks Watching

When Karin was in HR managing talent and 9-box-grid placements, it was always fascinating to see what leaders did the moment AFTER the announcement that they were moving to a new role internally or externally.

Some couldn’t transition fast enough. Like a bat out of hell, suddenly they had new MITs (most important things), new people to meet, teams to build.

They left their old team to figure it out, demoralized, wondering how they would keep it all going until the next guy was announced. And, quite frankly, wondering: If the work was so important, how could their boss change priorities so quickly?

When these leaders sabotaged their successor or raced off to their next gig without a care in the world, it said a lot about them and their priorities.

How to Exit Your Job With Grace

1. Check in with your team.

Thank them. Remind them why their work matters. Ensure everyone has a clear path forward during the transition.

2. Make information easy to find.

You know where you put it, but can anyone else find it? Make a list of all the things that are “just in your head.”  You worked hard to gain that insight, that process, that tool. Progress depends on not replicating work you’ve already done, but building on it.

3. Don’t insult “anyone or anything.”

We love this advice from Business News Daily:

Regardless of whether it’s true, show that you regret leaving such wonderful people behind. The most important part of a successful job exit is to avoid throwing anyone under the bus. Even if you’re not leaving on the best terms, don’t play the blame game. You don’t want to ruin your career by trash-talking your former colleagues or managers.

4. Help your successor build relationships with key players.

The hardest part of any transition is building vital relationships, which takes time. Can you leave your successor with a people map? Here’s who you go to for what and why it matters. Here’s who cares most about these issues. Watch out for this land mine …

5. Share your lessons learned.

If your successor steps in the same landmines as you, you haven’t done your job, no matter how good that feels.

6. Be available, but distant.

You’ve prepared your previous team for their future, given your successor all the tools and information you can, and have moved into your next role. Avoid the temptation to react to how the next leader does things differently (and they will). If your successor has questions, be available to respond, but not engage. If team members who you were close with call to complain or ask for your intervention – don’t. Rather, coach them on how to navigate the change and have positive discussions with their new leader.

7. Be prepared to feel the change.

When David transitioned out of one executive role and into another, Steve, a mentor who owned a venture capital firm, offered this wisdom: “Give yourself time and space to say goodbye and feel the loss. They were good people. Your next team will be great too – and you’ll be a better leader for them if you feel the change for yourself.”

Your Turn

The ability to exit your job with grace and dignity is essential for your long-term influence. You’ll build a reputation as a leader who leaves everyone and everything better than you found it.

We’d love to hear from you: What is one step you’ve seen leaders take to exit their job with dignity, grace, and effectively set up their past and future teams for success?

See Also: How to Prepare Your Successor For Success

Creating Introvert Friendly Workplaces Interview

Creating Introvert Friendly Workplaces – Interview with Jennifer Kahnweiler

In this episode, Jennifer Kahnweiler, PhD, a “champion for introverts” gives you practical tools to build an environment that brings out the best from every employee – particularly your introverts. We discuss what exactly that means, why it matters so much, common mistakes leaders make, and how to overcome them to an inclusive leader who achieves awesome results.

Connect with Jennifer:

Get Jennifer’s Book:

Building Trust and Connection in Remote Teams

How to Build More Trust and Connection in Remote Teams (Video)

This week on Asking For a Friend Live, I’m delighted to bring you special guests, Laura Cole, Lee Rubin, and Meredith  McCreadie sharing their expertise and experiences on building trust and connection in remote teams.

Asking For a Friend: How to I Build Trust and Connection in Remote Teams?


You won’t want to miss the moment at 28:45 where Laura maps Lee’s story using her amazing application of Haesun Moon’s Dialogue Quadrants.

Won’t You Join Us: Fridays at 11:30 EST

Join us each Friday for practical tools and techniques where we answer your (or your friend’s) most pressing leadership question. Connect with me on LinkedIn to join the fun.

How to Give Better, Consistent Appreciation

How to Give Better, Consistent Appreciation

I try to give my team consistent appreciation. I always go out of my way to say thank you. But you know what? In two years, I’ve never received a single thank you from my boss. NOT ONE. I get that this is my job. But come on! I’ve led some big turnarounds here and made a real impact.

– “John,” Manufacturing Executive

Sadly, John is not alone. We’ve heard that lament so many times before.

Employees in every role long to be seen and know that you know they are making a difference.

When we ask these underappreciated “Johns” what kind of acknowledgment they most yearn for, the answer is radically simple:

“I just want a @#%@!% thank you.”

3 Ways to Get Better at Appreciation

If you’re reading this and think, “Yikes, that could be me” or “I probably don’t do enough” you’re not alone.  You might want to try these simple approaches to build a more deliberate appreciation strategy.

1. Involve your team.

When Karin was an HR Director at Verizon, her boss Gail had a brilliant approach to appreciation.

Each week on our staff calls she invited us to nominate someone in another department who had “saved the day” in a big way.

Maybe it was Tom in IT who rallied his team to get a project done in Herculean time. Or, Brian on the HR help desk who spent hours resolving an employee benefits issue.

She ordered mighty mouse statues with custom name plaques. Then, when we were together in our Manhattan headquarters for our staff meeting, we would take a break and all six of us would tromp around the building disrupting meetings and bursting into song, “Here you came to save the day,” as we excitedly handed them their mouse.

This ritual did all the things.

First, it had us on the constant lookout for people to appreciate. I know that focus upped my awareness which led to more informal “thank yous” than I might normally have remembered to do.

Second, we became known as a team that truly appreciated other departments. Which of course made them more eager to help us. You get more of what you encourage and celebrate and less of what you ignore.

Third, it had a remarkable teambuilding effect as we sang and laughed and ran around the building—in a world where we spent most of our lives in executive meetings conscious of our executive presence, this was a welcome relief and a reminder to not take ourselves too seriously.

And finally, we were role modeling what we wanted more of in the organization. An HR commercial per se of the positive impact of more appreciation in the culture.

In our final staff meeting before Gail retired, she gave each of us our own mighty mouse statue and shared specifically why she appreciated each of us. Not a dry eye in the room.

I still have my meaningful, mighty mouse displayed on my bookshelf.

Or Keep It Simple

Of course,  it doesn’t have to be as dramatic as statues and songs.

We have a senior leader client who has upped his appreciation game by asking each member of his team to give him two people to appreciate each week. Then, he carves out an hour every Friday to make appreciation phone calls and send thank you emails.

He shared:

When I reach out to provide appreciation, I’m very deliberate about who told me about the good thing we appreciate. The appreciation is really coming from the person who lifted it up, and I’m just the conduit.  I also think doing it on a Friday has a nice impact, so they head into the weekend feeling good.

2. Make a weekly plan.

Another approach to better and more consistent appreciation is to make a weekly plan.

When we find managers in our leadership training programs that wrestle with consistent appreciation, we share this simple tool.

Note: you can download this fillable PDF Appreciation Planner here.

Each week, you can think about three people that you could appreciate. They could be peers, direct reports, even your boss. Then, you make a plan for why you are grateful for their contribution and how you could appreciate them in a meaningful way.

If you save the plan each week, you can ensure you’re spreading your acknowledgment around and not inadvertently overlooking anyone.

3. Leverage the element of surprise.

The other day, we had a virtual coffee meeting scheduled with one of our clients. The doorbell rang. There was a delivery of a wonderful box of fancy pastries followed by some beautiful flowers along with this sentiment …

Well, if you had been here with me in Seattle, I would surely have bought you a cup of coffee to thank you for all the work you’ve been doing with us on Courageous Cultures.

We so appreciated the appreciation!

Your Turn:

We’d love to hear your best practices. How do you ensure your appreciation is having an impact?

See also: How to get great at recognition event if it’s not in your DNA.

 

You're building our future

You’re Building Our Future


Your leadership goes far beyond the work you and your team do. You and your team likely spend more time with one another than with anyone else. That time, those discussions, and those relationships add up. Moment by moment, with each decision and interaction, you build the future. Our future.

What are you building?

How to Prevent Politics From Destroying Work Relationships

How to Prevent Politics From Destroying Work Relationships

According to Glassdoor’s 2020 Politics at Work Research, most U.S. employees believe political discussions are “unacceptable” at work.

And yet, one in two employees have done so.

In fact, twenty-eight percent report:

a co-worker has tried to persuade them to change their political party preference in the past year.

These contentious political conversations come at a cost. Twenty-one percent of the employees surveyed in the Glassdoor study reported they would not want to work with a co-worker who plans to vote for a presidential candidate they don’t like in the next election.

Politics and Social Media: The Conversation Before the Conversation

But, it’s tricky.

Even if you (or your co-workers) don’t breathe a word about politics at the virtual water cooler, it doesn’t take much to know exactly where your co-workers stand.

We’ve had so many HR folks tell us of the complaints they’re in the middle of because:

the other guy started it.

Which, upon further investigation, all came down to politics being discussed on a social media post.

Co-workers can feel personally attacked by a political point of view, even if it wasn’t meant to be about them.

As one senior leader shared:

Our biggest challenge is that people think if you support _______, you are a bad person. Who wants to work with a bad person?

Tips For Preventing Political Conversations From Getting Out of Hand

1. Reflect to connect with your coworkers.

If your values and views are so far apart that conversations feel like powder kegs, you’re not likely going to change anyone’s mind— no matter how persuasive your argument might be at the virtual happy hour.

Instead, work to focus on empathetic conversations, with a simple approach— reflect the emotion you’re hearing and use that to make a human connection.

For example:

I can tell you’re really frustrated by this issue.

You seem really excited about that event you attended.

I hear you’re hopeful about _____.

With a simple reflection phrase, your co-worker will feel seen and heard by you, which makes it easier to calmly extricate yourself from a further conversation on the topic. And get back to collaborating on your common goals.

2. Connect one-on-one.

It’s hard to hate people up close. Move in. -Brené Brown

Conversations seem to go sideways the fastest in crowds, or in asynchronous communication.  Respectful one-on-one conversation, where you show up and really listen, can go a long way in building deeper human connection and relationships.

People do long for connection and support during this challenging time. Deeper, respectful dialogue, done well, will go a long way in building trust and repairing the damage from casual assumptions.

3. Leverage the company policies and rules.

Most companies are re-communicating their policies and guidelines about appropriate conversations at work. (If you’re in HR and need help, here’s a useful SHRM article on the topic.)

Without creating a ruckus, you can simply say, “This conversation seems to be headed to a place that is outside of our company guidelines. I’m going to choose to stay out of it and focus on (insert your big business challenge).”

4. Beware of outside conversations creeping in.

It’s certainly within your rights to engage in contentious conversations with a co-worker at the bar after work or in an after-hours social media exchange, but it could come at a cost.

Once the drama ensues, it’s hard to let it go on your Monday morning Zoom call.

A conversation with a co-worker is still a conversation with a co-worker, even if you aren’t at work.

It’s a big world with more than enough opportunities to vet, vent, and engage. And often, it’s better to do it somewhere else.

Your Turn

What would you add? What’s your best advice for preventing politics from destroying work relationships?

See Also:

How to Help Your Team Prepare for the Turbulent Aftermath of the Election

Heartbeat Leadership – Interview with Dawn Kirk

In this wisdom-packed episode, executive coach and author Dawn Kirk gives you practical tools she developed throughout her career to help your team navigate the challenges of our times while remaining focused on the results the team exists to achieve. Listen to the end for a powerful way to grow your career and get the feedback you need – even when you feel ignored.

Connect with Dawn:

Book Website
Facebook
Instagram
Linked-in

Get Dawn’s Book, Heartbeat Leadership

Heartbeat Leadership Interview with Dawn Kirk

3 Ways to Create a Virtual Watercooler for Your Remote Team

3 Ways to Create a Virtual Watercooler for Your Remote Team

One of the most frequent concerns we hear from leaders and teams (where remote-work is the foreseeable norm) is the lack of a virtual watercooler. That metaphorical place where people exchange ideas, build connections, and spontaneous innovation thrives.

The informal exchange of ideas is critical for innovation and building relationships.

Fortunately, you can create spaces and interactions that simulate or improve upon the accidental connections that happen when you’re in the same building.

But it does require different ways of thinking and interacting.

As you’re thinking about how to re-create these interactions, it may be helpful to reflect on why watercoolers have become shorthand for these dynamics. The prosaic watercooler wasn’t designed as a place for team members to build relationships and share ideas.

But it works. Well.

Why? One reason is that it feels easy … no pressure … just chatting.

It’s the same reason people tell us the best conversations that happen at conferences happen during the coffee breaks.

So, how can you bring people together to cultivate spontaneous connections and new ideas?

3 Ways to Create that Virtual Watercooler

1. Create a standing “watercooler room.”

One of the most straightforward ways to re-create that gathering space is to build an online version. A Zoom or Teams video meeting that stays open, where people can drop in to say hi, take breaks, and talk about whatever they want.

To get people used to its availability, it may help to have a natural reason people would want to stop by. Perhaps a different daily resource, fun prompt, or shared activity or whiteboard.

Standing “break room” Slack or Teams channels can also play this role. We’ve seen organizations create dedicated spaces for work-related free-form discussions as well as personal topics like exchanging recipes, following sports, and many more.

2. Use quick parallel conversations

We’ve been inspired by teams around the world who come together quickly to solve problems, get creative, riff on ideas, and chart strategic action–in minutes, not days.

The secret to this rapid creativity and strategic problem-solving?

Breakout rooms.

There are so many ways to use the power of breakout rooms for fast parallel thinking.

You can seed the conversation with one meaningful, specific “How can we?” question and have each room address it – or give each room a different question or aspect of the challenge ahead. Or hold a quick standup meeting where people address one current challenge, then design a rapid-breakout session to address solutions for the three most common issues.

Create groups of 4-6 people, create a time limit that feels slightly too short, and get out of the way to let people engage with one another. The secret is to make these conversations relevant and fast. The best result is if one group says, “let’s keep talking” and then does.

3. Get personal with meaningful prompts.

It is possible to build and nurture human relationships remotely. We know because we’ve done it with clients and friends around the world. Whether you’re starting a business meeting with human connection or facilitating a virtual social hour, how can you be intentional and increase everyone’s understanding of one another?

The key is to use meaningful prompts. You might introduce the process with easier topics like hobbies, but over time, move to more meaningful conversations.

One of our favorites is “What are you most proud of?”–either in life, work, or any other aspect of life. This gives everyone quick insight into a person in a way that’s safe and not too vulnerable.

We’ve also worked with teams who have used questions like “What has been your source of strength or inspiration over the past months?” “Can you show us a picture or object associated with your source of strength and inspiration?”

Your Turn

It takes intentional effort to rebuild these informal exchanges, but the rewards are worth it. Your virtual watercooler will help to build connected teams and facilitate better ideas.

We’d love to hear from you. What are the most effective ways you’ve seen remote teams rebuild informal gatherings?

You might also like:

How to Get Better at Remote Small Talk

How to Find the Best Ideas to Make Remote Work Easier

Beyond the Basics: Online Meetings that Don’t Suck Your Soul

How to Get More Creative In Your Remote Team Communication