As I’ve been pondering the theme of “team culture“, I’ve been considering how I would be more intentional with virtual teams (or team members) next time I run such a project.

It can be an interesting challenge creating a cohesive team when all team members are located in the same building much less the same city or state or country. How can team members feel a sense of loyalty to the “team” if they don’t know one another? Why would one person give up his convenience to help someone out who is simply a name on the plan or a voice coming through the speaker? To that end, I started considering what I would do differently to ensure that all members  – whether virtual or sitting around the conference table with me – know they each play an important part of the project’s success.

Here are some of ideas I came up with to use at my next opportunity with a global team.

1. Have a two-minute slot at the beginning of a call during which a team member representing one country gets to educate the rest of the team on some aspect of the country’s culture. Topics could include holidays, food, music, hobbies, art, literature, current events, etc. The designated team member should know in advance his/her place on the agenda and the topic on which to speak.

Or you can have simpler topics that a representative from each country can speak using one (or two) words or sentences as a response.  Such topics may include:

  • top movie in theaters
  • the next holiday and why it’s celebrated
  • most popular music styles

2. Learn key words and phrases in each language that your team members speak. Key words and phrases including “hello,” “thank you,” “good-bye”, “how are you?,” and “have a wonderful day.”

Also, I think it’d be encouraging to a team member if the project manager asked “how can I help you?” or “what help do you need?” in the team member’s native tongue. That could make quite the impact.

3. Create a picture directory of the team. I’m sure there are some good tools to use. However, an old-school method is a simple PowerPoint file. Each page represents one team member and includes his/her name, photo, work times (represented in different time zones, possibly), and answers to questions such as:

  • favorite place to eat lunch
  • favorite hobby
  • favorite country to vacation in and why

Post the file on your company’s cloud or server location that is accessible by the team.

4. Post pictures of team members at work or play. Put guidelines around this so that the sharing doesn’t get out of control. Fundamentally, it is about making team members real to one another.

Since I personally love to learn about other countries and cultures, these ideas feed my curiosity. I hope they help spur some of your own.