Written by Canon Wing

I teach entrepreneurs and organizations the proven action steps to stand out within their market, improve the perceived value of their business, and better connect with their audience through naming, branding, storytelling, and communication platforms.

September 16, 2021

How to Lead a Badass Virtual Team

Today we are answering the question on every entrepreneur’s mind: How do I lead a badass virtual team in 2021?

In today’s episode, I’m going to give you 1 of the 4 Most Unexpected Ways to Inspire Badassery In Your Virtual Team in 2021, and then I want you to check out the full episode to learn more about the other three! Let’s get into it!

Ok, so most businesses are finally beginning to realize that working from home is here to stay. In fact, 75% of people are saying they’d rather quit their job altogether than return to the office full-time. I know the internet is now flooded with articles about how to manage a remote team, so I wanted to dig deep and reveal some real insider tips that you aren’t going to find everywhere else. So let’s jump right in with the first little nugget of gold I unearthed:

A study of 20,000 workers (both remote and in-office) done by Harvard Business Review, identified that there are three positive motivators that keep virtual team members intellectually engaged and emotionally invested in their work. They are: 

Play, Purpose, and Potential

The research shows that, although protocol and operational procedures are necessary for optimal business function, too much emphasis on procedure can be detrimental for optimal human function. With an ongoing lack of emphasis on play, purpose, and potential—even your star players will struggle to sustain their badassery. 

To put it plainly, if what you’re bringing to your team doesn’t enhance their play, purpose, or potential—you’ve just added an ingredient to a recipe that often results in bare minimum performance. 

So, as we fill our toolbox with the 4 Most Unexpected Ways to Inspire Badassery in Your Virtual Team, our main goal for each one is to hit a bullseye for inspiring one or more of the 3 key motivators of play, purpose, and potential.

I keep repeating them for a reason! 

Play. Purpose. Potential.

I want them to stick with you. I want you to remember them, so you can use them as a compass for navigating your team’s motivational levels. It’s an amazing tool that you’ve already gained in just the first 60 or so seconds of this episode! 

Now when you’re interacting with your team, you can ask yourself: Does this enhance my team’s play, purpose, or potential? If the answer is no, that’s okay! Sometimes business means getting down to brass tacks, but then you’ll know you need to add something more to the interaction that will keep their badass flames burning bright. 

Are you ready? Here we go— One of Four Unexpected Ways to Inspire Badassery in Your Virtual Team 

Number One: Surprise and Delight Them

Okay, so it’s pretty obvious which of the 3 key motivators Surprise and Delight Them is meant to inspire. Play, right! And the reason it’s the first of the 3 key motivators we are going to talk about—(can you list them all yet btw? Play, purpose, potential)—of these 3, Play is THE most powerful. Actually, studies have proven that play is the #1 thing that inspires human motivation and creative thinking.

Monty Python’s own John Cleese once said, “Creativity isn’t the possession of some special talent. It’s about the willingness to play.”

That’s why Zappos has a game room. It’s why Google has climbing walls. It’s why Patagonia has volleyball courts and bike paths…so how do we Zoom-ify play beyond what is already being done? The basic stuff like Zoom happy hours, or pizza parties…

Yes, the occasional Zoom happy hour or Zoom pizza party can be surprisingly fun, but research shows that most people view these types of meetings as just one more work obligation, right up until they arrive and start having fun. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have these types of events—You should! Just not very often. Maybe only about once a quarter, so you can keep this all-too-common strategy from feeling forced, and also minimize your team’s perception that these events are cutting into their productivity or personal time. 

Here’s the unexpected and more effective way to send a spark of playful energy that will revitalize your badass virtual team: By using the time that has already been allotted for weekly team meetings, even if it’s just the first or last 5 minutes, to surprise and delight them with an opportunity to play.

Surprise them with a scavenger hunt, where they can only get 15 seconds to try and locate each item on the list.

Delight them with surprise guests who are talented motivational speakers, or who specialize in leading group meditations, can lead group games, or just lead a team game yourself!

Surprise them with a random drawing for a gift card. 

Delight them with an impromptu show-and-tell, or have them sketch a self-portrait in 60 seconds and present their masterpieces to the group.

Surprise them with a “guess how many are in the jar,” game, and give a prize to the winner.

Delight them by wearing a funny costume, or a crazy wig, or giant prop sunglasses, and offer no explanation. If anyone asks, just say—“I’m not sure what you mean, but let’s try to stay on track here…”

Sounds silly to you? PERFECT! Silliness is a great sign that you’re successfully incorporating a little play into your badass virtual team’s workday. 

Plato says, “You can learn more about a person during an hour of play, than in a lifetime of conversation.” Which is a pretty compelling reason to implement these strategies for your virtual team, ESPECIALLY when there are people on your team who are logging in from all over the world, or even just people who have never met in person! 

What other strategies can you think of to Zoom-ify ways to Surprise and Delight your team? I’d love to hear your ideas. Join the conversation, and leave your thoughts for us in the comments! 

Oh! And just one more quick discovery on the subject of play that I think is important to mention: When companies like Zappos and Google first unveiled their ping-pong tables and their video game stations to encourage their teams to play during their workday, CEOs found that people were hesitant to be “caught” using them, for fear of looking like a slacker. That old conditioning of keeping your nose to the grindstone, right? And what they all discovered was that if they wanted their team members to actually use the ping-pong table, then the CEOs and managers needed to be the first ones to start playing ping-pong during work hours. And many companies found that they even had to go so far as to make daily play mandatory—just to help people start to unlearn that strong cultural conditioning that says being good at your job means you stay chained to your desk and never look up until it’s time to go home. 

So actually, surprising and delighting them with play during regularly scheduled business meetings is the perfect ‘Zoom way’ to make a little playtime ‘mandatory,’ without creating a perception of obligation, or cutting into anyone’s schedule.

As entrepreneurial leaders who want to build badass virtual teams in 2021, it’s up to you to demonstrate what it means to lead oneself, because without the structure of an office, it takes the spirit of an entrepreneur to stay on track. So set the bar high for incorporating play into your company culture, and lead by fun example.

Thank you so much for joining me! Be sure to check out the entire episode to learn more about the other 3 unexpected ways to inspire your badass virtual team! If you enjoyed this blog post, I release new videos every Tuesday and Thursday on FB and IG, so follow me, or subscribe to my YouTube channel, and keep treating these episodes as a masterclass for becoming an Inspiration to Millions with Branding. And as always the way to becoming an Inspiration to Millions starts with our motto: Love What You Do and Love How You Do It.