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Sustaining the Bonds of Relationships in the Virtual Environment

By August 28, 2020 No Comments

This weekend team members of the Gasparotto Group gathered in-person for the first time in 5 months. The main objective of the gathering was to re-explore our strategy and discuss the best practices for delivering our services in a Covid environment. Those objectives were achieved, but the morning’s proceedings identified an objective we had not included in the agenda. 

 Over the past several months we have leveraged technology to engage with clients, conduct business, and interact amongst our team. We have had regular meetings via video and collaborated digitally. Because Gasparotto Group’s infrastructure and culture is designed for remote work we have remained effective. Pre-Covid many of our key service offerings were designed to be in-person experiences. This meant that team members met in person fairly regularly, thus providing an opportunity to interact and engage with each other. Covid took this away and we were yet to appreciate the adverse effect of this on our team. That was about to change. 

Within minutes of gathering it became apparent that, despite regular virtual engagements, the dynamic had changed between us and there was an awkwardness to our interactions. Over the span of months of solely virtual engagements our communications became more transactional versus interactional.  This made an impact, team members felt marginalized and “unheard”. Feeling marginalized is highly atypical for our team, as generally our communications are interactional and we operate with a high degree of trust and transparency. Being relegated to virtual meetings and video conferencing masked a key element of human communication, body language. The sum of months of virtual interaction, combined with the traits and behaviors of the people involved had produced a tear in the fabric of our relationship.

Upon realizing this we immediately broke from the meeting agenda and spoke to the issue. Subsequently over the course of the morning our candor returned, friendly banter and good natured barbs, the non-verbal cues, and knowing looks exchanged.  We mended the tear and our communication shifted back to a process of us all actively participating and engaged. That evening as we sat together over a meal it was like “old-times”. 

The value of human interaction is unquestionable. The psychological and biological need for social interaction is a key element of the human experience. As indicated in a Canadian Mental Health blog, research suggests the lack of human connection can be more harmful to your health than obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure.  

People need connection and social interaction, in fact humans are born wired for connection–it’s in our DNA, as strong a need as food, water and warmth.”  Despite the wonders of technology, that connection cannot be sustained and nurtured virtually over an extended period of time. Even the closest of family and friends need to gather in-person from time to time. Think of the feeling you get after a social gathering, especially when held over a meal. This became resoundingly clear and obvious to us this weekend, and although not an intended outcome of the gathering perhaps the greatest and most beneficial part was the re-establishment of the bonds of friendship and comradery.  

 

As I reflected on the weekend, this quote from the founder and CEO of Ghost, John O’Nolan, resonated with me…

For all the emergent popular culture about the wonders of remote work, there remains one inextricable issue which goes largely unacknowledged: Great teams need human connection—and human connection does not happen through computers. 

With very little time to prepare, Covid forced organizations of all stripes to adapt a remote working posture. The technical aspects were established, but what was done to accommodate the innate need for human connection? No doubt a work from home approach will provide some economies of effort, improve some outputs, even the bottom-line, and help with work-life balance. But what remains to be seen is the impact on the ability of teams to establish and sustain the roots that form enduring relationships, build trust, cohesion, and high performance? How are these vital elements of communication and team building being established and sustained?

The Gasparotto Group team members that were able to gather this past weekend have a unique and exceptionally strong bond. One formed and forged by the shared experiences of serving in the same combat unit. Even this relationship was challenged and compromised by the limitations of virtual communications. Considering this, I can’t help but wonder about the impact on less established relationships, the adverse effect this must be having on the performance of the teams they make up, and the well-being of the individuals that form them. 

Before…

After…

The Gasparotto Group helps organizations create cultures that develop highly effective leaders and build strong, resilient teams, sometimes it’s even our own. 

To learn how our team can help your team overcome the challenges and limitations of prolonged virtual interaction, contact us at leadership@gasparotto.co.

 

About the Author

Shawn is passionate about leadership and developing effective and cohesive teams. He has a proven record of leading and inspiring people, cultivating trust, and building high performing teams of diverse capabilities. He has successfully transitioned his military skills and knowledge into the business and corporate world and brings this to Gasparotto Group.

The Gasparotto Group helps organizations create cultures that develop highly effective leaders and build strong, resilient teams. 

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