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
40 questions in 20 minutes (because it’s a 25 minute meeting) is inspired by Vogue’s 73 Questions. The interviewee has 30 seconds to answer each question.
Here are some example questions:
- What’s the first thing you thought of when you woke up this morning?
- What are you most excited about these days?
- What’s the last hobby you picked up?
- What’s your favorite holiday?
- What’s the best part about living in [city where they live]?
- What are 3 words that describe living in [city where they live]?
- Cats or dogs?
- If you could invite anyone over for dinner, who would you invite?
- What would you cook?
- What would you talk about?
- What is your favorite country to visit?
- What is the last country you visited?
- What country do you wish to visit?
- If you were a hiphop artist, what would your stage name be?
- 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?
- What is your least favorite food?
- Favorite app?
- Favorite website?
- What was one thing you wish you knew in high school?
- If you could switch lives with a person for one day, who would it be?
- Do you have a tattoo? What is it and where?
- If you could live in any historical decade, when would you live and where?
- Best gift you have ever received?
- Best gift you have ever given?
- If you could moonlight as another profession, what would it be?
- Favorite board game?
- What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
- Most important advice you give a younger generation / kids?
- Favorite song lyric?
- What band, past or present, would you be a groupie for?
- What was the last book you read?
- What experience in your life made you feel most nervous?
- Best first date idea?
- What would your partner say is your worst quality?
- What song would start your road trip playlist?
- One thing you can’t live without?
- What’s one cause dear to your heart?
- What’s your favorite color?
- Who is the funniest person you know?
- How do you like your coffee?
- What historical figure would you like to have a coffee with?
- What historical figure would you like to have a cocktail with?
- Who made you want to be your profession?
- What was your first job?
- Best fashion trend of all time?
- What’s your favorite thing to wear?
- Priciest thing you’ve ever splurged on?
- Do you play any instruments? Prove it.
- What is something you always travel with?
- What is your favorite slang?
- Favorite exercise?
- What’s your favorite dance move?
- What is your goto karaoke song?
- What song do you know all the words to?
- Do you have a secret talent?
- What’s your worst habit?
- What is something you are happy to say is all behind you now?
- Where do you find inspiration?
- What would you like to be remembered for?
- What’s your biggest pet peeve?
- How do you unwind?
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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