Don’t cancel Christmas! Celebrate from home as a team!

Remote and hybrid teams are a reality in most organisations. The pros and cons of remote work have been studied extensively and results are clear: it takes meaningful effort to keep your remote team thriving. We have collected some ideas about supporting your team through changes here and will concentrate on the power of joint celebrations in this one. Celebrating both successes and challenges is key to a happy team!

Celebrations are important in both in-person and hybrid teams as well as remote teams

Hang on, celebrating challenges? Exactly! Challenges suck and are great at the same time. Challenges nudge us out of comfort zones and, by definition, that feels uncomfortable. We are usually not fans of discomfort. But outside our comfort zone is the only place where growth happens! This is why we use challenges at our teambuilding and development events. Facing an unusual task promotes deep thinking, questioning, choosing, testing, analysing and learning. These are the tools for growth. And growth is great!

Every end or start of a year, birthday or work anniversary provides us with opportunities to think back and analyse what has happened while also setting new goals for the future. Try asking some of these questions:

So we handled the crisis rather well. How so? What contributed to our success? How did we make it happen? What should we learn to be successful in future crises? What should we consider so we could keep our focus and energy when life is smooth sailing?

So Christmas will be remote this year. How shall we celebrate it with our team? We cannot change the situation; what will be our way to make the most of it? What can we learn from this remote celebration? How can we adapt future events to possible remote situations? Perhaps these remote events are not as terrible as we think once we learn to plan and execute them well and find great partners to join the ride!

Tiina-Katrina running a hybrid training on effective online presentations

In the best case scenario learning about events will occur while working with partners in event management, training or teambuilding. At EnterTraining we are focused on supporting teams in their development. Mostly, this means a combination of teambuilding and training (=entertraining) aimed at creating growth and development. Recently, however, the need for trainings and workshops on skills related to events has soared!

With the Estonian Chamber or Commerce and Industry we launched a series of events on effective online presentations. Also, several trainings are ongoing for inhouse trainers to hone their online training skills. Let alone meeting design trainings to learn how to prepare and run effective meetings.

Every now and then, though, a client wants to leave all this learning and development on the backburner for a while and just have some fun! And we certainly appreciate the need to bond over shared laughter and enjoyment while working together in a lighthearted teambuilding event. Humour is often the key to unexpected results even in difficult times!

If you are looking for teambuilding events to help your remote team celebrate this season, have a look here or get in touch at Same applies for in-person and hybrid teams. Don’t let Covid be the Grinch who stole Christmas!

Is there a recipe for increasing motivation?

Where does motivation come from? Or, perhaps more importantly, where does it go? After years of research due to obvious reasons, I am pinpointing a few things here. This recipe for motivation has helped me through a few crises, supports my daily work and has been received well at several team development events across the country.

Have you ever read a book? Why? What on earth is your motivation to invest your time into reading? I recently asked this from event participants when talking about – you guessed it, motivation – and got different replies. Of course, it depends on what you read. Excel for dummies – fairly obvious. Shed building 101 – same. Bedtime stories – so your kid (or you) would fall asleep. Best answer though? A tilted head, furrowed brow and a confused “what kind of a question is that?!?”

This is how I read: . Image by author.

Often, we do not bother thinking about motivation when we have enough of it. I read because I like to read, stop asking weird questions! But what if your kid must read for school? Or there is a long report on your table at work that you just do not want to read… Then, all of a sudden, motivation theory starts to make sense! Here are a few key points that I have picked up when researching different theories and strategies on motivation for over a decade.

I have studied motivation both for personal use and to support the teams I work with. I have spent most of my professional life choosing the time and place for work. Except for a brief flirt with the teaching profession and, of course, when organizing team trainings and delivering speeches. Then the place and time are usually quite limited. But not always! The Covid-19 crisis proved how much richer the world of online events is than we ever thought possible.

Our portfolio includes more than a dozen different web-based teamwork solutions and online seminar topics, in which the team meets in a virtual space. Physically, the participants have joined from their kitchens (so much inspiration for renovations!) or walking by the sea and sunbathing on their verandas. With all these options, remote work highlights the role of intrinsic motivation. Here is my recipe to ensure a truly motivational experience working from wherever and whenever!

1. Purpose

This is our purpose, our WHY.
Need to go over your WHY or the recipe for motivation with your team?
Online or offline – let’s do it! Image by Paula Barrio Lopez, EnterTraining

In his book “Drive“, Dan Pink suggests three components of motivation. Two of them overlap with self-determination theory formulated earlier by Deci and Ryan, but one of them is different. That is purpose. Direction. Desire. Vision. These words are not synonyms, but they all carry the idea that we need a vision higher or better than the current situation. It is quite possible to live without formulating any goals. However, it is difficult to wake up motivated and endure even in difficult times without a vision (whether the difficulty is a sunny summer day, global pandemic, or a difficult task at work).

Yes, numerical results are important, but life does not stop there! Think of the projects you want to finish and the experiences you want to have. Who do you see by your side then? Image by author.

One of Estonia’s most famous trainer Peep Vain provides food for thought on formulating goals in his book “The Most Important Question”. One of the biggest surprises for me was the different types of goals he describes. When setting goals, we often think of specific outcomes, which can ideally be measured numerically. However, if we stop there , we might be missing out on describing and ultimately focusing on other types of aims. In addition to result-based goals, it is also worth thinking about projects and experiences that bring value to life. And then writing them down and making them happen!

2. Connection / relatedness

When setting goals related to experiences, we notice how important other people are in them. Or rather, our relationships with others. In self-determination theory, Deci and Ryan find that relatedness or connection with other people is one of the defining parts of intrinsic motivation. Especially during the Covid-19 crisis we saw the importance and value of meaningful communication. Moving to remote work overnight, coping with uncertainty and various responsibilities, and taking almost all communication online, created a new reality to adapt to. And that is far easier done with cherished people around us.

Connections can be created both online and offline. Working remotely is a perfect excuse to check in with colleagues. Make it fun and meaningful! Image by author.

Once our goals are in place, we will also start seeing who are helping us move towards them. When we define which experiences we expect from life, we also discover what kinds of relationships we want. The colleagues we enjoy chatting with in the coffee corner are not always the same as the ones we turn to when seeking support in reaching a result. To find out who shares our hobbies, whom to practice a foreign language with or whom to ask for advice on budgeting, relationships need to be established and nurtured.

One way to get to know your colleagues more meaningfully is through online teambuilding activities like this one. Every meaningful team activity helps! As does asking simple questions:

How are you today? What takes up most of your time these days? What activities have you enjoyed most this week?

This leads us to the next two motivational components that Pink as well as Deci and Ryan address in their attempts to explain motivation: autonomy and mastery.

3. Autonomy

We do not need to run our own business to take control over certain aspects of our work! Remember to extend the same courtesy to your colleagues. Image by Morgan Housel, Unsplash

Connection in the previous point emphasizes the importance of quality relationships. Autonomy, however, refers to our ability to choose at least some aspects of what we do. Be it our colleagues, time, location or something else. When moving towards personal goals, we are usually in the driver’s seat. At work or in the family, others might be in charge. In order to stay motivated, it is important that we can make our own decisions and choices about things that concern us.

The importance of freedom of choice is discussed already in child psychology. If “what do you want to wear?” may be too undefined a question for a 2-year-old and “put on this blouse” is too authoritarian, then “will you wear the yellow or the green blouse today?” strikes a good balance between choice and independence. We can do the same as grown-ups!

Many companies have started to question and discard the monitoring of working time as an unnecessary control mechanism. We all know, results are what really matter! If goals are defined and clear, deciding on working time, location and form will help keep motivation up until the result is achieved!

4. Mastery

The results may, however, elude us unless we have enough of the last ingredient – mastery. We talked about the different types of goals, but the complexity of the goal is also important. A good goal is complex enough to create a bit of struggle as we move towards it. Although in the planning stage it might seem nice to set rather low aims, while working on them, a level of difficulty actually works to our advantage! In the long run, simply setting achievable goals is an obstacle to our development. It turns out that performing simple tasks is not really fun!

Teamwork is a skill, just like painting! It can be learned, practiced, and developed into mastery. Image by author.

Our brains need constant challenges, new information, a task to work on. If we do not consciously create it ourselves and set the bar too low, it will have a negative effect on our motivation. A sufficiently challenging task will help us develop, increase our competence and apply our skills by constantly honing and developing them towards mastery.

This creates a virtuous circle of motivation: good results motivate further action and higher goals, these make you work harder again and this leads to more development. This is how our mastery and motivation grow. To keep the circle of motivation going, it is all the more important that we set goals that are truly our own.

I hope that this recipe for motivation will help you both in work and personal life to set meaningful goals, contribute to quality relationships and find ways of increasing your autonomy and applying your mastery!

What ingredient are you or your team struggling with? Let us know and we will do our best to help!

How to support your team through change

The beginning of 2020 has taught us a remarkable lesson about how abruptly life can change. How can we support our teams in times of uncertainty? At EnterTraining we have worked with different teams both before and during the Covid-19 crisis and realised several principles that apply.

1. Bring the team together

When there are rapid and significant changes, it is good to feel that we are in this together, that we are shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues. Take the time to foster this feeling in order to support your team. Do things together. Create space and time to meet, talk and share experiences: meaningful online events also help. It is important to have consistency in these activities. The certainty that something is permanent creates a nice balance and helps people enjoy the changes. You can find ideas for online, hybrid and physical team activities here.

2. Plan for the future

In a whirlwind of change planning for the future might seem almost impossible. If we do not know what is going on around us, how can we plan our actions? First, it is worth remembering the reason our team exists. What is our “why” emphasized by Simon Sinek as the driving force of success. A common “why” helps to identify and stay the course even when circumstances change. At EnterTraining, we went through this exercise at the early days of the company. The desire to create greater engagement in teams carried us forward during the Covid-19 crisis. Grand plans for growth were paused to focus on new solutions and approaches that met teams in the situations they found themselves in. Our “why” was clear and in the new circumstances we found new ways to support our clients and partners. Read more about our why, what and how here.

Secondly, scenario planning is a helpful tool for future-support your team. We may not know exactly what the future holds, but we usually see some trends. Creating plans for these possible scenarios gives us the confidence that we are ready for the future. This is also confirmed by Risto Siilasmaa, Chairman of the board of Nokia, who considers scenario planning to be a very natural way to prepare for the future.

Thirdly, it is good to remind ourselves that the future is everything that is not in the past or happening right now. 5 minutes from now is also the future! Even making plans for today or tomorrow gives us a greater sense of control. A good plan is not necessarily a five-year plan. Short term plans are usually far more actionable which brings a great sense of accomplishment and success. An added benefit is greater efficiency. After all, planning is at the heart of every productivity guidebook!

3. Create frames

I have a conflicting relationship with frames. The “doing things because they have always been done” approach does not work for me. But clear “doing these things to achieve those results” frameworks have become commonplace in both my professional and personal life.

Living a very flexible life, I found inspiration for frames in a strange place. A study of children’s playgrounds conducted by landscape architects revealed how differently children behave in different playgrounds. Where the play area is fenced off, kids feel at ease, they use all of the play area and even test the boundaries provided. On playgrounds without a fence, however, kids display a different, more reserved if not fearful behavior, as it is unclear where the boundaries are and how far it is still safe to venture. It turns out that we still benefit from clarity and structure even as adults. The main benefit occurs for our brains that do their best work when there is some framework in place.

When circumstances are changing, keeping a routine in place, with simple things like when do I start the day, when do I do my focus work, and when do I take breaks, can help support your team. Even simple timeframes can add a sense of stability which leaves our brains with enough courage to play and experiment with the changes happening around us.

4. Be open

Ask and listen. It is a good idea to start by listening to understand both concerns as well as possible solutions. You may hear unique stories, but patterns will also emerge that you can then address. Assuming and guessing will never bring the same level of understanding as asking, staying curious, and truly listening. If circumstances change quickly, it is wise to keep regular check-ins with your team as well as 1-on-1. This way, the team can analyze the situation themselves and find the most important focus points.

Tell your story. If you are having a hard time, share that with your team – it can support others who are also struggling. Be honest, but do not get stuck in the negative. Focus on how you can move forward. Although we are social animals and we value relating to others, it is important to keep ourselves and the team moving. Once the difficulties have been discussed and lessons identified, it is worth setting goals again to work towards.

Share the information you have. If you do not have information to share, tell your team when new information is coming. This helps to create a sense of security that the darkness does not last indefinitely. Psychological research has shown that we tend to predict the future based on current emotions. Thus, in a difficult situation, feeling frustrated makes it easy to project that feeling into the future: if the present feels bad, the future will probably feel bad. Knowing that a change is coming that can affect how we feel is encouraging and will help us create a more positive plan. 

The classic rule of communication applies: if you feel that you have repeated the same thing endlessly, there is hope that the information is starting to reach the whole team! This was confirmed at the recent HR club event we helped organise by the manager of IBIS Hotel Madis Laid. The importance of transparent communication is also emphasized by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, who is praised for her determined behavior during the Covid-19 crisis.

5. Develop growth mindset

We often value stability, but development requires change. Although it is easier to think of positive development as a driver of change, it is also worth practising the opposite approach: each change creates an opportunity for development.

Carol S. Dweck writes about growth mindset as a base for great results and a happy life in her book “Mindset: Changing the way you think to fulfill your potential.” Mostly we all balance between two ways of thinking: according to one, all our skills and attributes are fixed, and our abilities are predetermined. The second way of thinking, however, leads us to test and experiment to discover new depths in our achievements. The belief that we can and will move forward even when it is difficult supports this. We are able to change and develop, and development is especially great when we can meet new challenges. How are you making the most of these challenging times?

I hope you found tips on how to support your team and move to a new level of development. Should you want additional information and recommendations based on the needs of your team, feel free to contact us!