Kommunikation, Organisationsentwicklung | 2. April 2022

5 steps how to step out of an ineffective or frustrating online team culture

If you feel your online team culture is inefficient or outright frustrating, it might be urgent time to start a reflection on it with your team. In this blog, I share a practical 5-step guide to step out of the downward spiral of a negative online team dynamic together – even if you are not the person in charge.

Step 1: Face the truth

First you need to take charge and realise that something is going wrong. If one of these factors appears, it is time for action:

  • The tone of voice sounds more frequently aggressive, demanding or accusatorial – maybe camouflaging as „fact-oriented“.
  • There are more and more meetings, and nobody seems to find the time to do their real work, in consequence being forced to multitask during team meetings.
  • You feel meetings are lengthy and/or inefficient.
  • Some colleagues seem to be either withdrawing or on the contrary dominating the space.

Step 2: Search for allies

Share your observations with one or two colleagues that are accessible. Form a core group that will support each other moving the team towards change. This way, chances of a successful intervention rise dramatically: One person doing something new is likely perceived as an idiot. As soon as somebody follows, it can be the beginning of a movement.

Step 3: Propose a format for reflection

Depending on the kind of work structure, now it is time to move forward and propose your plan of action to group leaders or the group itself. Your allies can now support your proposal in a meeting. Make clear it should take the form of an anonymous questionnaire and then reflecting together, not blaming anyone, but instead moving forward together looking for improvement that benefits all.

Step 4: Work with a questionnaire

Optimally together with parts of the team create a small and simple, process-oriented questionnaire that helps to identify how members perceive the culture in online meetings. Your questions can focus on all meetings in general, or on separate meeting formats (dailies, weeklies, etc.). Questions could tackle the following aspects, depending on where you are and what you aim for, or others:

  • Are our meetings efficient?
  • Are our meetings fun?
  • Is it easy to stay focussed during our meetings?
  • Do men and women participate equally?
  • Do you feel communication is always friendly and respectful?
  • Are our meetings well prepared?
  • Do our meetings make sense?
  • Do we stick to our agenda?
  • Are more introvert colleagues given space and methods to participate?
  • Are our meetings a safe space for you?

Ask participants to answer on a scale, i.e. from 1-10 in how far they agree. Optimally, the questionnaire is filled out between meetings, so everybody has time to think about it. You could also give space to add detail, so colleagues can share observations, thoughts or solutions.

Step 5: Look at the results together and move forward

Next team meeting, reserve time to look at the results. Maybe you and your colleague think of a small process how to do it. Maybe start with pairs or groups of three discussing the results, identifying where improvement is needed, focussing on ways ahead – rather than on finding a culprit. If it is a large team, after some time you could move on and join two of the small groups or pairs with another pair before discussing all together in the plenary. In this way, it is not so easy to brush away different voices – and also people feel each other – and themselves – better in small groups or pairs. When groups merge, also consensus can build up.

Looking for solutions, it is first important to get the go from the team formally: „Yes, we want to change this!“. You can then start to work on different issues. You can also decide to delegate tasks to a working group that will make proposals to the team at a later point. It could be to draft a „code of conduct“, to introduce and/or rotate facilitation or to change the way you plan meetings and show availabilities to colleagues and also create respect for „undisturbed working times“. Solutions differ from team to team. But starting this conversation is almost always a turning point and it creates more awareness for how we treat each other.

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Of course there is much more to say, and there is so many different situations that never one size fits all. My goal was to give you an idea how you could empower yourself, even when you are not formally leading the group. I am looking forward to your feedback!

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