6 secrets to building engaged, resilient teams across hybrid workplaces from community expert Venessa Paech
Venessa Paech has been figuring out how communities can work across digital and hybrid spaces since the early 2000s. Obsessed with the early internet, she has spent decades watching the tools we use to connect evolve — and the human ways we use them evolve with them.
Now our sought-after Communities@Work coach within our Adaptive Global Leaders & Super Teams program, Venessa shared with FEW her top tips for engaging teams in a shifting work environment.
  1. Know the tools you use — and the humans using them.
"We're already seeing the organisations who moved to the cloud for COVID-19 running into challenges with culture and engagement. We've mastered the tools, we need to return to the human and understand how we design, manage and lead gatherings in digital spaces."
2. How you use a tool is more important than which tool you use.
"Though tools can be designed to guide or encourage certain behaviour, they are basically inert and hollow," said Venessa. "We know that without purpose design and social practices to create culture and incentivise outcomes, we won't get the full value from these platforms – and worse, we run into avoidable challenges and issues."
3. Businesses that don't adapt will lose high-performing staff
Now that people have experienced the flexibility of working from home — and realised that they can be just as productive while doing so — staff won't go back to old ways of working. Businesses that choose not to address this challenge will suffer — and lose staff for it. Instead, building a communal, flexible work environment is critical to organisations surviving and thriving.

"The future of work, of business, of education, frankly, of just about everything, is communal, so it's the perfect time to level up our skills in forming healthy communities and how to be a good digital citizen within them."
4. Be accountable to your culture online as you would in-person
"Keeping experiences safe and productive is everyone's responsibility. While there are community professionals to help with oversight, all of us shape culture online, and we should never walk past harms," said Venessa.

One core challenge for businesses is building culture and community without physically sharing a space. At the end of a meeting IRL, it's easy to switch out of business mode and talk to your team candidly about what's going on in their life — their concerns, stressors, what's on for lunch. Keeping this sense of culture requires work and commitment in an online setting.

Similarly, sharing a virtual space requires the same etiquette skills as needed when sharing a physical space.

"Know when it's important to cede the virtual 'floor' to others, particularly voices or perspectives that are not often heard from. Active listening is a powerful gesture!"
5. Good leaders are engaged, present and focused
"Show up and be present," said Venessa. "It's so easy to be distracted but we know that focus is essential for getting the most out of any engagement."

One key way that leaders can ensure they are engaging genuinely with their team is to reflect on the goal of an interaction before entering into it. Sometimes these goals will be practical ones, but more often than not there will be human-centred goals there too, like connecting to a shared purpose, checking in on team morale, or empathising with and solving for team blockers.

"Reflect on your purpose and shared value. What is the goal of the group or gathering? What shared value are you and others working toward, and how can you contribute to that?"
6. Level-up your skills as a human and you'll level-up your skills as a remote leader, too.
Despite massive leaps in technology, not a lot has changed about the core skills that make up great leaders and community members. The skills that make us uniquely human — the skills that make us resilient, adaptive, empathetic and creative problem solvers — are transferable across time, culture and technology.

By building up those skills first, it won't matter what the future of community building looks like — you'll be equipped to engage with the challenge head-on.

Venessa is our Community@Work coach in our new Adaptive Global Leaders & Super Teams program. Our evidence-based program was designed over five years to equip you with the human skills needed to thrive in the future of work. To learn more from Venessa and our other certified coaches, register for our program today.
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