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What’s the number one tip I give leaders on how to build relationships on remote/virtual/distributed teams?

I was leading and a member of distributed teams before it was common, well before we had video calls or apps like Slack (or as we old-timers called it, “IM”).

These teams were cohesive, engaged, and high-performing. I had great relationships with my colleagues and employees, and the same could be said across the teams.

As more technology crept in, I maintained one practice that has helped me to continue to build strong relationships across the miles.

It’s my #1 tip for building relationships on distributed teams.

“Pick up the phone.”

My #1 Tip for Building Relationships on Distributed Teams | Cynthia Farrell | 110 West Group

Or more often, “Pick up the *%$**@ phone.”

Why the phone?  Isn’t it important to see facial expressions and body language, and use our tech for that?

Yep, that’s important. But it’s also EXHAUSTING over the computer. Studies have shown that video calls and meetings take far more mental energy than meeting in person because of what it takes to process those cues across a screen.

When we’re using our mental energy to subconsciously process a video call, we aren’t nearly as tuned in to the conversation.

So every once in a while, without actually scheduling a meeting, just PICK UP THE PHONE.

As an excuse not to do this, I often hear “But what if they’re in a meeting?” So what? Ask them to call you back. Or if it makes you feel better, text or message and ask if they’re free to take a call (and yes, if it’s a member of the younger generation, it’s wise to text or message in advance to say “Hey I’m going to give you a call to chat. Nothing is wrong.”)

AND for this to be successful: While you’re on the phone, walk away from your computer.

Go sit somewhere else. Pace. Make it a mutual walking meeting.

That action does two things.

  1. It changes your status quo, which tells your mind “We’re doing something different–pay attention!”
  2. It keeps you from the inevitable distractions that will pop up on your screen. And if you get distracted… well, you might as well have just skipped the call.

And then settle in for your discussion. After, reflect on how it felt different from a video call.

With all of the tech at our disposal, we’ve forgotten how to just use the phone and the value of a simple phone conversation.

So that’s it! My #1 tip for building relationships on distributed teams. I stand by this as my top tip.

Pick up the *%$**@ phone.

Call me old school. I accept that. Because my experience tells me I’m right.

What is your top tip for building relationships on distributed teams?


Looking to increase the cohesion, trust, and impact of your leadership team? Reach out and let’s discuss The Compass Team Experience and how I can help.

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