September 28th, 2020
Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson is an Associate Professor of Management at CU Boulder Leeds School of Business and author of the national bestseller, Inclusify: Harnessing the power of uniqueness and belonging to build innovative teams. She has collaborated with Techstars around diversity and inclusion over the last four years. Here’s she offers ways for remote teams to connect.
Many startups have been forced to change their strategy and/or find new ways of doing work amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that diverse and inclusive teams are able to make better decisions – 60% better decisions, according to a study by Cloverpop, a cloud-based decision-making platform. But given the state of our world, many team members are feeling dispersed and disconnected. What can leaders do to reinforce inclusion and belonging on their teams?
Most of your meetings are probably virtual, which can result in people being left out of the conversation if it’s a chaotic mess of voices speaking over each other. But here’s the good news. This can also result in more equitable conversations, if done well. Take these three steps to design more equitable meetings that will actually improve your overall decision making.
First, send out all of the meeting questions and topics in advance. Second have people send their thoughts and ideas on a shared document (or email them to you). That way you can mentally organize how you want to lead the discussion. Third, go through the different ideas allowing people to contribute one at a time when called on.
Consider all of the tasks that need to get done over the next few weeks or months. Put those assignments into a spreadsheet and categorize them as good (career building) opportunities, bad no promotion potential (office housework) tasks, or somewhere in between. Then consider how you are dividing those tasks among your team.
The reality is that most managers put some thought into dividing the good opportunities fairly, but few think about how they dole out the busy work. Women and women of color tend to get saddled with most of the office housework. This is so relevant right now because when we are under stress we tend to more heavily rely on our prototypes and gut instincts. That can translate into greater inequity for those who are so busy with housework that they don’t have the time to achieve their goals on the more important tasks.
Even though happy hours feel like a thing of the past, and it is not so easy to organize a team outing, there are still ways to connect with your team. And, as you rethink new ways to build esprit de corps, you can also consider how to make those activities more inclusive. Try virtual happy hours and virtual coffee hours (not everyone drinks alcohol and some people may have other obligations during that happy hour from 5-6 pm). Do a “bring your kids and pets to work day” so they can see each other on the screen. Order some food and have it delivered to people’s homes for a work dinner. Start a Words With Friends (or game of your choice) competition.
These are small steps that can have a big impact for team members who are feeling disconnected.
Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson is an Associate Professor of Management at the Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado Boulder and author of the new book Inclusify. Dr. Johnson is also a frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review and an in-demand keynote speaker. Her work has been featured in The Economist, Newsweek, Time, and on CNN. She lives in the Boulder Bubble in Colorado with her family.