By David Hassell, an EO At Large-US member, and CEO of 15Five
Remote work is quickly becoming the norm in the start-up world, and we are no exception. From day one we’ve been an internationally distributed team, and now that we’re regularly bringing on new employees, being masterful at the art of virtual collaboration is critical.
There are plenty of tech tools available to ensure that we can work efficiently and effectively from thousands of miles away, but that isn’t quite enough. In all my time as an entrepreneur, I have learned that nothing can fully replace the right dose of face-time.
In January, I brought the entire team to Sedona, Arizona, USA for our quarterly retreat. No matter the size of your company, team retreats are essential to create cohesion, realign the team with your company culture and values, and to develop a common understanding of long and short term goals.
When you gather brilliant minds under one roof, you must capitalize on the power of synergy and collaboration. We began one session by asking a recent hire to walk through a web sign-up and trial of 15Five. This exercise produced long term ideas as well as product tweaks that we implemented that same day. The result? An instant 10% increase in the number of people who invited at least one other person to use our product.
I highly recommend doing this frequently with new employees, while the rest of the team looks on. You can openly and candidly discuss opportunities and confidential matters while getting a fresh perspective.
Core values begin as a powerful tool to guide company culture and business decisions, but without vigilance they can easily become meaningless. Breathing new life into your values is the single biggest opportunity of bringing all of your talented people together.
One of our core values is to “Grant Trust and Be Transparent”. When we shake hands, hug, or look another person in the eye and share something vulnerable, a connection takes place that transcends team-building.
Kick-start the process in an all-hands meeting by asking targeted questions about both personal and professional challenges. For example, we asked “What is something about you that you are reluctant to share with the team?” People will then organically swap other personal stories with others as they pair off throughout the retreat, deepening the personal bonds and trust between one another and creating the foundation for exceptional teamwork.
Our team often built camaraderie by cooking meals together, but on our last night we dined out and toasted to the many accomplishments we had achieved that week. Feeling satisfied and grateful, each team member thanked someone else at the table, as elaborate reflections of the personality, skills, and abilities that they appreciated in that person.
I recommend this practice for all teams. A pat on the back from leadership can feel great, but building a culture of appreciation among employees creates a sense of camaraderie and allows everyone to genuinely feel a part of something greater than their individual selves.