Connection is vital for us to work well together. It’s the foundation of clear communication, of “getting on the same page,” of building and maintaining trust within a team. Without connection, we lose energy and momentum fast. We miss signals, omit information, and make negative assumptions. Our productivity and sense of purpose diminishes as our understanding becomes less accurate.
However, for now, we can’t connect the way we usually do. Gone are handshakes and shared meals. From 6 feet away, with masks covering our faces, our natural connection processes have been interrupted. We cannot see and mirror facial expressions to establish rapport and understanding.
And in the remote Zoom universe, many nonverbal physical cues are much harder to perceive. Through our screens, we don’t automatically adjust our posture, breathing, and facing to signal connection. The interruption of this organic process is part of the “Zoom fatigue” we experience as we attempt to connect through a screen all day long.
Below are some strategies to compensate for lost physical connection mechanisms during this Time of Distance. They may feel awkward at first, but in the spirit of innovation and adapting to change, give them a try and see how they influence your next meeting.
If you’re leading a group meeting, suggest a Meeting Opener to raise the level of connection before progressing to your main agenda. Connected teams naturally progress toward collaborative dialogue, so taking 5-10 minutes for this purpose can make the rest of your meeting much more lively, engaged, and productive.
To respect everyone’s privacy and comfort level, make it clear that this activity is voluntary but suggested. Anyone who doesn’t want to participate can say “Pass” when it’s their turn. Also, be the first to share for any opener you suggest.
1. 2-Minute Check in – Each person briefly shares how they are feeling today.
2. Rose & Thorn – Each person briefly shares one thing that is going well this week and one thing that is challenging
3. Intention Share – Each person shares a quality they commit to practicing in order to be fully present in the meeting (patience, curiosity, openness, creativity, etc.)
4. Permission Slips* – Each person shares one thing they will give themselves permission to do in the meeting, something that’s personally challenging but that will support their personal well-being and their ability to serve the team (For example, “I’m giving myself permission to listen longer before making a plan,” or “I’m giving myself permission to share bold and unconventional ideas.”)
*Permission Slips is a suggested exercise in Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
Even if you’re not a designated leader, you can still be a powerful connective force in your team. Here are some Connection Boosters on the individual, Followership side to try in either group sessions or one-to-one meetings.
1. Assume Positive Intent – We’re all a bit distracted and anxious right now – don’t take things personally and assume others are all trying their best, just like you.
2. Visual Focus – Difficult to do remotely, but looking at the camera rather than at your notes or at some other open application makes a huge difference in how connected you and others feel during the call. If you do need to look away temporarily, communicate what you are doing and why so that others know you are still with them.
3. Breath Awareness – Shift your focus to your physical body and notice the sensation of your inhale and exhale. This practice calms the nervous system and makes it easier to listen to others with a clear mind.
4. Offer Support – We don’t always stop to think what we need. Making an open-ended offer gives others the opportunity to consider what this might be and to actually receive it. That exchange is a powerful act of connection.