By Jeremiah Lee • May 2021
Remote asynchronous work does not eliminate the need for human connection. Fostering community and camaraderie is a valid reason to have a synchronous meeting, but you will need something more than virtual trust falls.
I created Togetherness Time, a weekly 25-minute meeting on Friday in place of our daily standup. The name may sound hokey, but it is explicit in intent. The objective is for people on the team to get to know each other as their full selves, not just the person who works virtually beside them. While early Internet users can attest to the community building power of async, text-only communication, we have video meetings now and should use them.
Several people I managed said it was their favorite meeting of the week. Some would even show up for the meeting when they were on vacation. Here are some of the activities the team liked most.
Not everyone will feel comfortable participating as the subject of the exercise, so ask for volunteers and reassure the team that it’s ok to not host. As a manager, I did each of the exercises first to demonstrate and then ask for a volunteer to go next.
This idea is similar to MTV Cribs, the show where celebrities showed off their homes. The place we choose to live and the objects we keep reveal much about us. Each week, a different person from the team would take us on a tour of their home. We did one person per meeting, so this activity spanned a few months’ worth of meetings.
Career/Life Journey Maps
Share the highs and lows of your journey using a line graph with an x-axis of time and y-axis of bad-to-good. Put notable moments as points on the graph. How much of the timeline and how vulnerable one wants to be is up to the host. Some people may only share professional highs and lows. Others may share how their personal and professional lives have intermingled.
Over or Under
Take popular topics of conversation and ask if they are overrated or underrated in quick succession. No further discussion. Pick topics relevant to the interviewee and audience. Google Trends is a great source of topics.
Some example trends to rate:
- Elon Musk
- The LA Dodgers
- Mini cupcakes
- Sourdough bread
Here are some example questions. Mix and match.
- If you could invite anyone over for dinner, who would you invite? What would you cook? What would you talk about?
- What historical figure, dead or alive, would you like to have a coffee with? A cocktail with?
- Who is the funniest person you know?
- If you could switch lives with a person for one day, who would it be?
- When did you last move?
- What are 3 words that describe living in [city where they live]?
- What is the best part about living in [city where they live]?
- What is one thing everyone should do when visiting your city?
- What country do you wish to visit most?
- What is the last country you visited?
- What is your favorite country to visit?
- What is something you always travel with?
- This or that:
- Beaches or mountains?
- Cats or dogs?
- Romantic comedies or scary movies?
- Salty or sweet snacks?
- board game?
- thing in your office?
- thing to wear?
- How do you like your coffee or tea?
- If you could live in any historical decade, when would you live and where?
- What is the best fashion trend of all time?
- What is your best first date idea?
- What is your biggest pet peeve?
- What is your least favorite food?
- This or that:
- If you were a hiphop artist, what would your stage name be?
- What song do you know all the words to?
- What is your favorite song lyric?
- What was the first concert you ever attended?
- What band, past or present, would you be a groupie for?
- What song would start your road trip playlist?
- What is your favorite dance move?
- What is your go-to karaoke song?
- What is your favorite tv show of all time?
- What tv show would you like to make a cameo in?
- What is your favorite movie of all time?
- What is your favorite movie in the last 5 years?
- What movie made you cry?
- What movie made you cry from laughter?
- What is your favorite Disney character?
- Who made you want to be your profession?
- Who has been most influential in your career?
- What was your first job?
- If you were not doing your profession, what would you be doing professionally?
- If you could moonlight as another profession, what would it be?
- If you could pick up a new skill instantly, what would it be?
- What is the first thing you thought of when you woke up this morning?
- What was one thing you wish you knew in high school?
- What is something you are happy to say is all behind you now?
- What was the last book you read?
- What is the last hobby you picked up?
- What was the best class you ever took?
- What is the best gift you have ever given?
- What is the best gift you have ever received?
- What is the priciest thing you’ve ever splurged on?
- Do you have a secret talent?
- Do you have a tattoo? What is it and where?
- Do you have any superstitions?
- Do you play any instruments? Prove it.
- How do you unwind?
- What are you most excited about these days?
- What experience in your life made you feel most nervous?
- What image on your phone lock screen?
- What is one cause dear to your heart?
- What is one thing you can’t live without?
- What is something you love to teach people to do?
- What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
- What is the most important advice you give a younger generation / kids?
- What is the quality you most cherish in a friend?
- What is your worst habit?
- What would you like to be remembered for?
- What would your significant other say is your worst quality?
- Where do you find inspiration?
You can also turn any of the above questions into ice breaker style questions.
The Oscars, Emmys, and Grammys are fun moments to talk about recent movies, tv shows, and music.
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