Dr. Bridges: Keep a teamwork focus while working apart

#SOESupportsYou in a time of need

An employee stares out the window in a high-rise building's room.
Looking for ways to keep a strong teamwork focus during a time of virtual meetings? Ensure that all voices are being shared and heard, seek out multiple viewpoints, and keep a check on your assumptions. (Pexels Images)

Kimberly M. Bridges, Ed.L.D., is an assistant professor in the VCU School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership. Like many of us, she is working from home and attending many virtual meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are her Top 5 Tips for Keeping a Teamwork Focus in a Time of Virtual Meeting Fatigue.

To maintain effective teamwork in a time of distance and virtual meeting fatigue, you need to focus on:

1. Building psychological safety so all team members will speak up. Lead with vulnerability and humility to show it’s safe to share. Ensure that all voices are being shared – and heard – by paying attention to "talk time" in calls or virtual meetings.

Headshot of Kim Bridges of the VCU School of Education.
Kimberly M. Bridges, Ed.L.D.

2. Fostering group and 1:1 trust. Trust can be harder to maintain in virtual environments, but it is essential to collaboration and group performance. Show each member you care, be open and honest about what you know/don't know, and demonstrate competence and reliability.

3. Leveraging diversity. Diverse teams make better decisions, but you have to value and seek out multiple viewpoints.

4. Conflict – yes, conflict. Productive conflict and "devil's advocates" help us pressure-test group ideas to get to better outputs.

5. Checking your assumptions. Being alone with our thoughts can allow us to fall into assumptions about others' behavior that we can't minimize with quick, down-the-hall check-ins. Envision a best case assumption to counter negative ones, and keep questioning your assumptions so they don't get in the way of relationships.

Attending to team health is more important than ever. Think of it as balancing team accountability and support – make sure that you're supporting each other's unique work-from-home situations with expectations that reflect individual capacity. This will keep the team – and its collective work – strong.

These tips are based on materials and literature used by Dr. Bridges’ students in their doctoral and master's classes in education leadership. Sources included scholarly journals, popular journals and a book.