Beyond “How are you?”
Deny yourself the connection to the wild places that your soul craves and the fire inside you will slowly turn to ash. (Creek Stewart)
Bravo to those of you who find yourselves confined in front of your laptop for five full days a week on a succession of Zoom/Teams/Bluejeans meetings. This kind of connection can feel disconnecting. Some people tell me they prefer the equalisation and efficiency that virtual meetings can bring. Others miss the chance to connect beyond the quick-fire agenda and notice the lost value in not having unscheduled time with each other. It reminds me that the team is present whenever two people are in conversation, not just during full team meetings.
How then do we connect and look after our teammates when all we see of them is a grainy rectangular image on our screen? How do we show care and interest?
Asking “How are you?” doesn’t seem to quite cut it.
It’s easy to fill that little space you have to connect at the start of a virtual meeting with small talk of home-schooling madness, the Covid-kgs you’ve put on from punishing the biscuit tin, or the Covid-kms you’ve racked up on Strava, but it still doesn’t really answer the question, “How are you?”
It’s not an easy question to answer either. I’ve noticed my own emotions have been up and down as our family adjusts to a different way of life, and each week seems to bring a new slice of fruity uncertainty.
So, as you start your next meeting, rather than ask “How are you?” experiment with one of these:
1. Check-in questions
- What have you been most surprised to learn about yourself during this period? What have you been reminded of?
- What is your personal weather status right now (cloudy/sunshine etc) and what does the forecast look like?
- How are you arriving at our session today? Anything you need to acknowledge that is going on for you in order to allow you to fully engage?
- What question is being asked of you (or through you) right now?
- What are you noticing that you are mad, sad, and glad about right now?
- What are you noticing in your environment that troubles you/gives you hope?
2. A different way of knowing
For some teams, I’ve found using an artful way of knowing can be more profound than rationalising with words. It could be as simple as raiding the home-school pencil case and having team members illustrate their answers to one of the questions above, or for something completely different try ‘The Jelly Baby Tree’. Share the picture on the screen and have the team members circle (annotate live) which figure best represents how they are feeling at that moment. Offer them a few moments to explain their choice. It’s a little random, but often quite revealing. It gives a quick sense of “the whole” and which of your colleagues are feeling similar to you. If you’re able to set up a quick 10 min virtual pair breakout room afterwards, it can work wonders to reconnect the team to one other (and themselves). Download it here.
Best wishes to all my connections during this time. Sending good vibes.