Category Archives: Meetings

3 Fun and Easy Virtual Team Building Activities

3 Virtual Team Building Activities

Virtual teams can feel very lonely.

Remote employees are typically focused on their own silo, and rarely interact informally with their peers and managers like they would in a regular office.

Meetings in particular can feel very transactional and dry.

This is one big disadvantage of virtual teams – you lose what’s called the “water cooler” effect in a regular office, where team members bump into each other at the water cooler and talk about things unrelated to work.

Although such minor interactions can be trivial, their impact is quite significant on team performance. They have a tremendous positive effect on overall team morale and happiness.

So as a team leader, you should put in a concerted effort to create activities that help increase those team bonding factors.

 

The objective of those team building games

The objective of those virtual team building activities and games is to help you:

  • build trust among your team members
  • increase the level of cohesion and intimacy among your co-workers
  • learn more about your team members on a personal and professional level

The activities are very simple to implement, yet have a huge return on investment for you and your team.

 

Who are those virtual team building activities for?

The following activities and games are designed for virtual teams of 4 or more individuals that are either just starting out (i.e., in the forming stage of team development) or have been working together for a while on a collaborative project (i.e., in the storming stage or beyond).

Those activities are especially helpful for teams that work closely together and interact multiple times throughout the week by using IM software, teleconferencing, and other virtual team tools.

The activities are not very applicable however, to teams that are working on short contractual work, such as a small team you hire through Elance to design a website for you.

 

What you need for the virtual team building activities

You will need the following before conducting the virtual team building activities:

  • Dedicated time: you need to dedicate some time either at the beginning or end of a virtual status meeting, or to set up a completely separate meeting focused on the activity itself
  • A screen-sharing/ collaboration tool: to share your screen where everyone can see what you’re presenting on
  • A teleconferencing solution: for folks to talk and listen in (like a regular phone teleconference or a web-based audio one)
  • A main facilitator/ leader: who will help moderate the activity. Ideally, this would be the virtual team manager or project manager of the team

Tools like Google Hangouts, Skype, WebEx and GoToMeeting all work great for screen sharing and teleconferencing.

 

3 Virtual Team Building Activities

Here are three fun and easy virtual team building activities and games:

#1 “Little Known Facts About Me”

The objective of this game is to connect with your team members on a personal level.

Most virtual teams don’t have a lot of time to mingle or chit-chat, so this game is great because your team members can open up and learn about each other’s backgrounds.

Here’s how it works:

Ask each team member to send 3 personal facts about them only to you as the facilitator. They should send this information to you a few days before the meeting so you have enough time to consolidate it.

It is important to tell the team members that those facts should be not be related to their current job (and preferably not known to other members of the team) to make it more fun.

You will then enter those facts in a spreadsheet in random order. On the day of the meeting, you can then share the spreadsheet on a screen, and ask each team member to guess who that fact belongs to.

The spreadsheet will look something like this (I’m showing only 3 team members here for simplicity):

Virtual Team Building Activities - Little Known Facts About Me

You would start with fact 1 at the top by reading it aloud and asking each of the team members to guess who they think that fact belongs to by speaking up. You’ll then type those guesses in the spreadsheet while sharing it on a screen where everyone can see.

Once that row is complete, you’ll move on to the next fact, and so on.

After filling in all of the rows, you can start at the top again and start filling in the right answers in the “Correct Answer” column. Asking the person with the associated fact to speak to it a bit is always amusing.

At the end, you as the facilitator can then tally up the scores of all the different team members to see who got the most guesses correctly.

This is a lot more pleasurable than it actually sounds, because as you go through the facts, the guesses by the team are hilarious. And the facts you find out would reveal quite a bit about each team member’s background.

 

#2 “Video Roundtable”

The objective of this game is to increase the level of intimacy among your virtual team members.

Video conferencing is one of the least utilized features of remote teams, yet it is one of the most important to build trust.

I think people shy away from using video because they are just generally uncomfortable with it, or they’re just too lazy to “fix themselves up” to be camera ready (and prefer to keep working in their PJs  – like me :) ).

However, video conferencing is a great way to increase the level of cohesion among your team.

In the Pyramid of Communication (where the higher up the pyramid, the more intimate the team is), video conferencing is only a couple of levels below the best form of communication: face-to-face.

Pyramid of Communication - Virtual Team Building Activities

Side note: I talk in-depth about the pyramid of communication and how it can help your team become more effective in my Udemy course about managing and influencing virtual teams

Here’s how this activity works:

Set aside 30 minutes to 1 hour for a “video roundtable” meeting every 2 to 4 weeks.

The goal of the meeting is to have everyone join a video conference and get an update from all the team members about what’s going well and what’s not.

This is not a detailed status update to discuss issues or risks (which should have their own separate meeting), but rather general feedback about how things are going with the team. In addition, everyone must share a single personal update about them to spice things up.

The key to making the activity work is two things:

First, explain to your team members ahead of time that it’s mandatory that everyone use video, and second, that every team member will get the chance to talk. This way, you’ll ensure that everyone has their web cams ready ahead of time, AND is prepared to give an update.

To add some structure to this, you can limit everyone’s responses to 6 minutes each, and have them answer three questions

  1. What’s one thing that’s been going great lately?
  2. What’s one thing that can be improved upon?
  3. What’s one thing that’s been going on with you personally?

A sample response could be:

1. “We’re doing great with the latest requirements document – we finished it ahead of schedule and the customer is happy. Big shout-out to Mike for helping us last week and walking through it in detail with our lead engineer.”

2. “One thing we could do better is be a bit more responsive in email. I realize we’re all very busy, but we had to wait 48 hours for a response from the Ops team, and this is going to affect us negatively in the long run.”

3. “A personal update is that I’m heading over with my wife and 3 kids to the Bahamas during my vacation next Friday. We’re all super-excited about it, and Charlie, my youngest, is looking forward to swimming with the dolphins.”

The idea is to avoid “presenting” anything. The focus should be on the person talking because it’s a Video Roundtable, and team members are free to ask or comment on any of the responses so that it feels like an open forum.

Having the video turned on is awesome because you can read everyone’s facial and body expressions as they speak, and it’s like you’re all sitting in a large conference room.

An optional idea is to ask everyone on video to bring along their favorite beverage – coffee, tea or soda – to the meeting so that it feels like a virtual coffee break.

 

#3 “Two Pictures”

The objective of this simple activity is to share visual images with your team members.

Here’s how the activity works:

Ask everyone to share two pictures (again, not related to work) about their own personal families or hobbies and spend 5 minutes talking about those pictures. Other team members are encouraged to ask them questions to learn more about their backgrounds.

There are two ways to play this game:

  • Dedicate 30 minutes for a separate meeting where all team members share those 2 pictures in turn and talk about them.
  • Dedicate 5 minutes at the beginning of a regular (unrelated) status meeting where only one person shares their pictures during that meeting, and the others can do so in subsequent meetings.

This is somewhat similar to the “Little Known Facts About Me” virtual team building activity, but it’s much simpler & quicker, and focuses on pictures instead of text.

The visual component makes it an incredible game that imprints memories among your team members.

If you don’t have time for any of the other games, this is definitely my favorite one because of its simplicity. It’s also the next best thing to having your own personalized office cubicle where you display personal memorabilia for your co-workers to see.

Here are some ideas for pictures you can share:

  • Pictures of your family (including kids and pets)
  • Picture of your home office or space where you usually work from (people love seeing this for some reason)
  • Pictures of your last vacation
  • Pictures of your hobbies
  • Pictures of something interesting you found online (like a gadget you want to buy)

 

Conclusion

Those virtual team building activities are great to build trust and rapport among your team. You can try all of them, and then pick one that works for you and your team. You can even frequently play all 3 of them at different times during your team’s progression.

Here’s a quick recap:

  1. Little Known Facts About Me – a game where each member guesses published facts about their teammates
  2. Video Roundtable – a video conference where everyone has to use video and talk about general & personal feedback
  3. Two Pictures – an activity where everyone shares 2 pictures about anything unrelated to work, and spends 5 minutes talking to the team about them

I hope you found those virtual team building activities helpful!

Cheers,

Hassan

P.S. – If you liked this article, check out the book

 

A 60-Second Overview of “Influencing Virtual Teams”

If you didn’t get the chance to read my “Influencing Virtual Teams” bestselling book, or if you have read it and would like  a simple refresher of the 17 tactics presented in it, here’s a quick 60-second overview on SlideShare.

I hope you find it helpful!

Hassan

P.S. –  Can I ask for a quick favor?

If you’ve read the book, would you take 1 minute to review it on Amazon?

I would love to hear your feedback (I read every single review), and it would mean the world to me.

Click here to leave a review of the book on Amazon in 1 minute

Thank you so much!

 

P.P.S. – Here’s what the #1 Reviewer on Amazon (of all time!) wrote about the book.

Your review doesn’t have to be as detailed, but I wanted to give you an idea if you’re confused about what a review should include.

#1 Amazon Reviewer on "Influencing Virtual Teams"

#1 Amazon Reviewer on “Influencing Virtual Teams”

 

 

Why You Should Set Deadlines With Your Virtual Team. And 3 Tips That Show You How (Tip #2 is Crucial)

Deadlines Virtual Teams

Most human beings are inherently lazy – they have an instinctive tendency to procrastinate with tasks that don’t have a sense of urgency associated with them.

I know because I’m one of them.

I typically delay working on stuff whenever I get the chance.

I come up with false alibis such as waiting until I’m in a better mood or until I get more information before starting on a task.

There are many psychological reasons why people procrastinate, but a huge reason why we take forever to finish a task is something called Parkinson’s Law.

Parkinson’s Law says that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

What this means is that if a task would typically require 1 hour to complete, then if you assign it a 4 hour deadline to it, it will take up the full 4 hours to get done.

In other words, if a task does NOT have a deadline associated with it, it will NEVER get done.

That’s the primary reason why you need to set deadlines.

But deadlines have other advantages in addition to avoiding Parkinson’s Law from kicking in.

Deadlines develop a sense of urgency, hold team members accountable, provide a sense of encouragement, help in determining priorities, and provide a sense of accomplishment (after the deadlines are met).

They’re a win-win for everyone. So use them.

But how do you set deadlines?

There are 3 rules that you should keep in mind to set deadlines strategically.

#1 Be Reasonable

The first rule is to be reasonable about it. If you know that a task needs around a week to complete, then don’t ask for a deadline in a couple of days.

While this sounds obvious, it is something that is commonly abused.

If you don’t know how long a task would take, then simply ask for feedback. And if you’re worried about not getting an honest answer from your team, then ask for optimistic and pessimistic estimates, and average those out.

#2 Be 100% Clear-cut

The second rule is to be 100% clear-cut about when you want something done. Deadlines are ineffective if they’re ambiguous. You need to mention the specific day, date and time that a task should be completed by. And if your team members live in different time zones, then mention that as well.

For example, instead of saying “I need this done in the next couple of days,” you should say “I need this done by Friday, June 9 at 3pm US Eastern Time.

#3 ALWAYS SET THEM

The third and final rule is to ALWAYS set deadlines. Every single task should have a deadline associated with it. Period.

Otherwise, Parkinson’s Law takes over.

If you don’t really have a deadline, then you can use a fake one (no one’s going to really know 😉 ). And if the deadline is a few weeks out, then use an intermediate soft deadline as a checkpoint to make sure progress is being made on the task.

Again, always set deadlines.

Cheers,

Hassan

P.S. I published a Kindle book called “Influencing Virtual Teams” where I share more cool tactics like this one. Check it out by clicking here.

6 Uncommon Tips for Running a Virtual Meeting

Virtual Meetings That Work

Article in SOLVE Magazine

I recently wrote an article for the premier edition of SOLVE Magazine, a  new publication created by Time Warner Cable Business Class.

The article discusses 6 unconventional tips about how to run virtual meetings.

The title is “Remote Meetings That Get Results: Keep your employees on the same page, even when they’re not in the same city,” and is a relatively short read (1 page).

I’ll think you’ll find some of those tips quite helpful, especially the “Don’t bother with meeting minutes” one.

You can read the article by clicking here.

The Ultimate List of Virtual Team Technology Tools

Virtual Team Technology Tools(List updated: Jun 2015)  The following is a list of around 60+  technology tools that you can use to manage your virtual team.

To keep things simple, I’ve categorized the tools into 12 different functional categories.

However, keep in mind that those categories are loosely defined, and one tool can technically belong to more than one category (because of overlapping features and frequent tool updates).

Note: None of the links below are affiliate links, so feel free to click away :)

1. Collaboration Tools

Tools that help you collaborate with your team through a central hub for sharing information

2. Project Management Tools

Tools that help you manage and plan your projects with your team through task assignments and scheduling

3. Document Storage/ File Sharing Tools

Tools that help you store and share your files securely among your team

4. Meeting Tools

Tools that help you meet with your team through web conferencing and collaboration

5. High-End Video Conferencing Tools

Tools that allow you to meet with your team through super high definition or real size video conferencing

6. Video & Audio Conferencing Tools

Tools that allow you to meet with your team through video and audio conferencing

7. Instant Messaging Tools

Tools that allow you to chat in real-time with your team members

8. Document Co-creation Tools

Tools that allow you to co-create and co-edit documents or visuals in real-time with your team members

9. Social Network Tools

Tools that allow you to collaborate and interact with your team members through a social network

10. Scheduling Tools

Tools that help you to schedule common meeting times with your team members

11. virtual team games

Virtual team games that help increase trust and enhance communication

  • Prelude – a creative game that builds trust in virtual teams
  • VirtuWall – a competitive game that helps breaks down silos

12. BONUS – OTHER TOOLS

Tools that don’t fit into any of the other categories

Hope you found this helpful! Please let me know in the comments below if there are any other tools that I might have missed.