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Getting together in person as a team may seem off-limits for many businesses and non-profits during a pandemic, but with adherence to public health guidelines and careful planning, it is possible to do so safely.  Recently, Forge Coaching & Consulting conducted a day-long session led by Manon Dulude, Leadership Development Coach for the Halton Learning Foundation (HLF).  Here, Manon and Lesley Mansfield, CEO, HLF, describe the experience.

What session was provided and how many individuals were involved?

Dulude: The workshop is called Building Communication Bridges with Style, and it’s one of our most often-requested group sessions.  In this case, there were four participants, but this workshop is suitable for teams of up to 14 people when we’re not restricted by a pandemic.

Where was the session delivered?

Dulude: Everyone gathered at my home office in Georgetown, Ontario.  It’s large enough to enable proper physical distancing at all times for four participants and myself.  It was conducted when indoor gatherings of up to 10 people were permitted.

What industry is the client in?

Mansfield: HLF is the Halton District School Board’s Foundation, supporting students in financial need from kindergarten to grade 12.  We are a small team and fortunately, everyone was able to participate in this professional development activity. For those in the charitable sector, it can be rare to engage with a professional facilitator to lead a fulsome team-building workshop.  In this case, though, it was an opportunity we just couldn’t pass up!

What was the purpose of the session?

Dulude: This workshop is designed to help team members learn about different behavioural and communication styles.  These aren’t things most of us consider when we interact with others at work or with friends and family, but they matter. Different people have different styles. When the styles of others are understood, and when we also learn how to transform our approach so we are better understood ourselves, misunderstanding and conflict can be avoided.  Instead, trust, collaboration, and productivity can thrive.

Mansfield: In our case, the Building Communication Bridges with Style session was particularly valuable because one of my team members had joined HLF during COVID-19 and had not met any of his teammates in person.  Our regular Zoom calls have enabled everyone to meet virtually, but it’s difficult to cultivate solid working relationships if you don’t meet in person. A Zoom or conference call can provide words and tone of voice (except when the screen freezes or the internet connection is lost) but 55 per cent of the meaning is lost without incorporating body language.  So in essence, half of the meaning is lost, which often leads to confusion in all messaging.  The workshop was very helpful not only in terms of its content but because it brought everyone together in person in the same room.

It was extremely beneficial to the team dynamic.  I learned valuable information about my team members that, despite working with them for an extended period, I had not known. This will help me understand their needs and reactions more effectively and has already proved helpful during their recent performance evaluations.

What impact has COVID-19 had on the participants?

Mansfield: Like others in any helping profession, my team has been managing through periods of extreme stress coupled with those focused on administrative activities.  As we are all working from home, the workday is often longer than it would be if we were physically in the office. It’s also more challenging to maintain a separate home life, so the two often co-exist in a greater way than before.  We are also hearing the stories from parents about how the pandemic has played out in their lives – from losing jobs to increased health risks from living in proximity with elders in small, cramped areas, to a lack of proper technological infrastructure for students to effectively learn virtually. These stories and others influence our work with young people and motivate us to provide as much support as we can. Even though we turn off our computers at the end of the day, it’s impossible to forget that these people are our neighbours and need help more than ever.

How did the participants react to getting together in person?

Mansfield: We all were conscious of safety first and foremost, however, when the initial moments passed, there was a genuine relief about meeting in person. There was laughter, chatting, and a sense of true team building.  Since the session, I’ve seen and heard different conversations happening between our team and many of the practices we learned are being put into play. The risks of our in-person meeting were extraordinarily low thanks to the myriad of protocols put in place (and effectively managed) by Manon. The benefits of our time together cannot over overestimated.

What safety measures did you put in place for the session?

Dulude: Before the session, participants were advised about the steps we’d be taking. Everyone wore masks at all times. We each kept two metres apart. Upon entering my office, everyone used hand sanitizer. Individuals brought their own pens and handouts were provided. Surfaces were wiped down with disinfectant before and after the session.

Have you conducted other sessions with teammates who have not seen each other for a while and if so, was the reaction similar?

Dulude: Yes, I have conducted Zoom sessions with a team that is spread across the country and who see each other just a few times a year. That team is used to working remotely from each other.  With the HLF session, it was different because this team, under normal circumstances,  would work closely together in the same office.  COVID-19 forced their separation.  On-boarding a new teammate during a pandemic made things particularly challenging.

What advice would you give to those considering having an in-person team meeting during COVID?

Dulude: First, we all must operate within public health guidelines. That said, teams need to continue to finds ways to enhance their knowledge of each other and this is especially important during tough times when there may be additional stress. Stress can lead to more misunderstandings and even conflict.  Leaders are aware that teams are pivoting and adapting more than ever.  In times of volatility, unpredictability, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) having a team that has a deep appreciation for each other’s behavioral and communication style will increase the team’s emotional intelligence.

Mansfield: This was a valuable workshop that worked well for my team. It’s natural to be hesitant about meeting in person during a pandemic, however, if public health guidelines are followed as they were for our session, and there is strict attention to safety measures, it can be done safely.  The benefit of bringing separated teams together in person after a long stretch apart cannot be overlooked.

Forge Coaching & Consulting provides several workshops that can be delivered safely on- or off-site, in-keeping with government guidelines.  For more information call us at  (1) 905 873 9393.

Building Communication Bridges with Style

Relationship challenges in the workplace impact productivity and employee morale and must be addressed quickly.  Building Communication Bridges with Style gets to the root cause of most workplace relationship issues; misunderstandings and poor communication.

This workshop helps teams, groups, and organizations build communication “bridges” and eliminate interpersonal barriers that cause workplace conflict. The Personal Style Indicator, an online assessment tool, helps determine the preferred personal communication, behavioural, and work style of each team member. It helps participants appreciate that individuals manage stress, approach work, manage relationships, and solve problems, differently.

Building Communication Bridges with Style is an interactive learning process that helps team members discover the strengths and challenges of their own personal style and better assess and appreciate the style of their counterpart.  This approach to communication is the foundation of a respectful and collaborative workplace culture.

Learn more about Building Communication Bridges with Style


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