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  • Writer's pictureLata Hamilton

6 ways to catch up informally with your virtual stakeholders

Even after 2 years of lockdowns and working virtually, many of us are still struggling to match the speed and ease of building trust and relationships that we used to get from meeting co-workers in person face-to-face. We're hardwired to pick up unconscious cues in conversations and as much as video calls try, it's just not the same.

On Thursday, I'm running my free webinar "How to Lead Your Virtual Team through Change" (click here for more info).

I always co-create my content and ask the audience for their top challenges and questions, and that's actually where this blog post came from because many people raised the question of building relationships virtually.

As Australia starts to open up, some of this challenge will be helped by return to office. Or will it? Because there will still (always) be a portion of your team or stakeholders working from home or remotely. And let's face it - getting the team back in the office is going to take time, and we never know if another lockdown is around the corner.

So whether you have a 100% virtual team, a 100% office-based team, or a hybrid team with a mix of both, we still need to figure out creative and engaging ways to connect one-on-one with our stakeholders, even if we can't catch up face-to-face. And it needs to be informal, relaxed and casual... because as leadership genius Simon Sinek says, it's in those moments that trust is truly built.

Here's 6 ways you can do it:

1. Pick up the phone

Being a Gen Y, I seriously loathe phone calls. But nothing says "spontaneous" like a mobile phone ringing unexpectedly. Sure, you may play phone tag or have to leave a voicemail, but if you manage to get your stakeholder at a free time, you can have an amazing D&M in no time.

Tip: Ask if they're free to chat and if so, how long they have and then keep an eye on the time for them.

2. Suggest a walking meeting

Scheduling a walking meeting either by phone or videoconferencing immediately makes for a more casual catch up and it helps relax and ease people into the conversation, plus gives them a rest from the desk and screen. It's especially great if you have stakeholders who don't like having their cameras on - because you can let them know it will be audio-only (which it should be for safety reasons!). And if you're both in the office, walking meetings are still a fantastic option to keep things light.

Tip: Always take headphones and try to walk somewhere without too much wind or background noise.

3. Write "coffee" in the meeting invite

If you want to set the tone for a virtual or in-person meeting to be more informal, pop "coffee" in the meeting invite name and write in the body to bring along a hot beverage of choice. Again - it shows there's not going to be screen share, or a need to take notes, especially if you send the invite for 15-20 minutes only.

Tip: Be sure to bring your own drink along, so the other person doesn't feel awkward slurping on their cuppa.

4. Choose chat over email

There's a ton of instant messaging services used in our workplaces and if you really want to keep things light, send a chat message instead of an email. It's draining and time-consuming to keep up an email conversation, but when people are wanting a break from the desk, or are waiting for a coffee or their kids, they'll have a few minutes to chat on their phone app.

Tip: Check in with people on a Thursday or Friday with a friendly IM. Be like: "Hey, was thinking of you and thought I'd see how your week went" or the like.

5. Meet for realsies somewhere

Ok so not 100% virtual but if you live nearby your stakeholder or are in their area or ok to travel, meet for a coffee or lunch or walk or evening drink with them (if restrictions allow). Just because you're not going into the office, doesn't mean you can't catch up in person.

Tip: Avoid meeting at the person's place unless you know them well because they might feel pressure to clean the house, put on food, etc. No one needs that stress- choose a public spot.

Lata looking up to sky

6. Get active on LinkedIn

One of the things I loved about the office was bumping into people and being prompted to catch up there or then (many hallway D&Ms were had), grab a coffee, or arrange a time to meet. It was also fantastic because sometimes just passing and saying hi would remind stakeholders to do or complete or send something they needed to do for me. If online is now our workplace, then social media is our hallways. Connect with your colleagues on LinkedIn and share posts - you'll pop up in your stakeholder's feeds and remind them of your existence.

Tip: If you're not comfortable sharing your own content, simply like, comment or reshare other people's awesome posts (like mine hahahaha). And if you're not on LinkedIn... it might be time to be!

So these were 6 easy ways you can connect one-on-one with new or existing stakeholders and colleagues.

But what about groups and teams?

That's exactly what we'll be covering in my free "How to Lead Your Virtual Team through Change" webinar on Thursday 18 November at 6.00pm AEDT (Sydney time). Click here to save your spot.

Lata Hamilton is a Change Leadership and Confidence expert and the creator of Leading Successful Change, a 6-week course that will grow your confidence to lead change end-to-end so you can have the influence and impact you want. Find out more and register for the program here.


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