Is remote work globalizing talent and opening up new possibilities, or is it stifling creativity and collaboration? As with many things in life, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. There are new and exciting possibilities with virtual work, but to make the most of these new possibilities, you have to continue to collaborate, share, and think creatively as a group. Your team’s emotional intelligence, or your team’s ability to manage your emotions and relationships toward successful outcomes, could be the key to having the best of both worlds.
What follows are three creative approaches to remote work and what these approaches can teach us about collaborating remotely with emotional intelligence.
Approach #1: Assigning an “angel’s advocate.” At the outset of the pandemic, a San Diego based biotech team went into the lab in shifts, using Zoom for weekly lab meetings. Unlike their in-person lab meetings, which were highly energetic, their Zoom meetings were lacking that creative spark. Their solution was to assign an “angel’s advocate,” a person entirely devoted to tacking on positives and additional possibilities to ideas. The “angel’s advocate” was a massive success, getting people to open up more readily and protecting ideas in their fragile, early states. The team’s good use of a norm (an angel’s advocate) not only kept their collaboration on pace with their in-person collaboration, but it has opened up new doors. Traditionally, the biotech industry is very location bound, relying on people to live near the lab to run experiments at different hours. For the first time in that team’s history, they’ve hired a data scientist based in the Midwest.
What Your Team Can Do: EQ Lesson #1: Establish Team Norms, and Lean on Them. Norms are incredibly valuable tools for collaboration. Instead of becoming reliant on leadership to guide you through a process, use norms to encourage and enforce good behavior.
Approach #2 Awarding a “Swagg Chain.” The Major League Baseball team, the San Diego Padres, began to award a Swagg Chain—a giant, gold-plated necklace—to teammates who had just hit a home run. The chain was an in-the-moment “play of the game” award and celebration. Their celebration was so contagiously fun that other major league baseball teams imitated it, using hats and rope necklaces.
What Your Team Can Do: EQ Lesson #2: Start Group Routines to Celebrate and Bond. For as long as groups of humans have existed, we’ve used rituals to bond and create group meaning together—hunting rituals, celebrations of coming-of-age, celebrations of the seasons. Studies show that rituals are good for us. They boost cooperation, build team bonds, and create group synchrony.
Approach #3. Sending A Weekly Email Summary. Serena had relied on checking in with her manager throughout the week but working virtually she found herself plagued by stress and anxiety. She felt disconnected from her manager and her team. One Friday, to alleviate her stress, she typed up everything she’d done that week for her team and her manager. She edited the email down to a three-minute read—just the high level, most important information—and then she sent it. Serena’s team and manager loved the email, and Serena did too. It made her less anxious and opened up a clean, efficient system of communication.
What Your Team Can Do: EQ Lesson #3: Rethink How You Communicate. Those natural check-ins that you do in-person are tough to replicate in a virtual setting. Try using thoughtful written communication that summarizes what you’ve all done, decisions that were made, and next steps among your group.
From Insights to Action. The key to getting your team to work well together is to not force it and to capitalize on good ideas when they surface. As you try these strategies you will find that some stick well while others don’t. If a strategy feels awkward or unnatural to your team, don’t be afraid to drop your efforts and try something else.
To learn more about team emotional intelligence, check out our Mastering Emotional Intelligence for Teams program. Or, check out our best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0