Building digital connections

March 29, 2021
Laura Richardson
Written By
Laura Richardson

At Profitero, we write a lot about how to build great eCommerce analytical insights, and spend time teaching organizations how to use data to enhance their eCommerce strategy. Intellectually, I love learning and talking about these topics. But really, at the core of my day, I spend my best energy building teams that help our clients do their best work. And do you know what else you need to run a great eCommerce business? Exceptional talent. 

As you likely can imagine based on what happened in eCommerce in 2020, Profitero also has had some impressive growth this year. My team grew by 40% in 2020 — and what was once a highly centralized team in Boston is now spread out across the U.S. As a leader of people, I’ve had to reimagine how to build trust among teams and foster meaningful connections virtually. Let’s be honest, not everything translates or works well over Zoom. 

But just last week, I organized a virtual team exercise that was pretty special. I want to share this experience in the event it helps other managers find a way to boost team morale, and ultimately helps individuals understand and appreciate the role each one of them plays as a critical team member.

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The situation

I think my team is pretty amazing; I’m lucky to work for them. However, the tribulations of working alone for almost a year — not getting to give people real high fives; facing the challenges of onboarding remotely; and now coming out of a long winter — is enough to make even the most positive people around feel weary. I needed to do something. But it had to be authentic. It had to be virtual. And it had to speak to each person individually.

The exercise

The question “What makes you exceptional?” is one often used in coaching relationships. When you’re able to define it for yourself, it can yield a really powerful perspective. It is often an answer you seek out by talking to people you trust and work with often.

So, I took this question and turned it into a team exercise. I asked this question for each member of my team; had everyone anonymously answer it; shared the results; and then had a team discussion.

As it turns out, the team was touched, as was I, by the generous and thoughtful answers.

How I did it:

  1. I set up a Google form asking everyone to write a short answer to: What makes “X” [team member] exceptional?

  2. After all the answers were collected, I sent the individual's responses to their email (they were not shared publicly). I used delay delivery so that the email showed up at the same time at the beginning of the meeting.

  3. I held a team discussion. Each person had to reflect and comment on what, if anything, they were surprised by, and which comment resonated with them the most, and why.

The overwhelmingly positive reception

Getting an email with affirmation statements from your colleagues was a gift. Talking about it, and hearing how each person thought about how they were recognized was incredible too. Many people needed the validation. Others felt seen. Still others recognized that it provided a benchmark they didn't know they were missing.

For me, one of the biggest learnings is that we need to spend more time telling each other why they are special. A “thank you” at the conclusion of a project is always appreciated, but a statement that says: “You have a bias for action that I think is exceptional” or “You are exceptional because you have a desire to learn and be better tomorrow than you are today” validates all the activities people do that make them unique and a valued member of the team. 

Fortunately, it doesn’t take being in person to tell colleagues they matter.

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