Living in the Moment: Mindfulness in Virtual Teams

“With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

How often have you had lunch at your desk and could not remember what you ate, or if you even did eat? It is easy to become very focused upon your task at hand. This focus is often referred to as “being in the zone” or “in the flow.” When there is an imminent deadline for a team project and you are the one finalizing it, you’ll sometimes find yourself in that state.   Thus, these phrases have some positive value attached to them: productive, hard-working, energized.

Mindfulness and the CIO

However, when reality strikes, and the client calls, or emergencies arise, team members cannot be oblivious to the obvious: it is time to change tasks. As “being in the zone” might imply, hyperfocus can be good, but not always. The only place you have any impact is in the here and now. That cannot be achieved with your head down in the computer screen and your mind multi-tasking like crazy. Being present here and now in every interaction you have is a prerequisite for individual and Virtual Team success.

The buzzword often used is “mindfulness.” Rarely heard in management until recently, it is based upon Buddhist practices. Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. “The outlook for CIOs, as they demonstrate mindful leadership, is excellent.” (J. Esser, Technology Forecast, 2013) Mindful leaders inspire mindful teams. Help your virtual team become more mindful right now.

Three Tips for Being More Mindful

Focus on teaching your virtual team members, and yourself, these three simple tips to help them be in the moment, not in the zone (or zoned out during an online meeting, not that you’ve ever done that…):

  • In the zone? Take a moment to notice what you’re doing and when and why you are doing it. Is this a stretch for you? Set a reminder in Outlook if you have to, but stop what you’re doing for even just a moment and come back to reality every hour. If you lose all track of time, you are probably hyperfocused. Take some time to simply be. Lunch time, for example.
  • Zoned out? This can happen, also. When you notice your mind wandering as the client (or your boss) drones on in that virtual meeting, do not become frustrated or judge yourself harshly, simply bring yourself back to the current task and move forward. Your thoughts are simply thoughts; you do not need to react to them, especially the negative ones.
  • Become aware. Notice where you tend to “zone in” or “zone out” too much. What are the activities? Practice bringing more awareness into them to achieve a balance. Do not take things so seriously that you cannot act on them without judging them. While emotions, good or bad, can be motivators for bursts of productivity, long term they do not serve you well.

Remember that these are just simple starter exercises in awareness. They are not immediate deep life changes, but in time they can be.. The more awareness and mindfulness you bring into your daily life, the more you can authentically connect. You can tell when the person you’re Skyping with isn’t paying attention, as you hear their keyboard keys click. Don’t be that person. You do not need to drag out a yoga mat and sit in the lotus position to start your day, although many successful executives do. To be mindful means simply to be more aware, however you can, of the present moment.

Three Benefits of Being Mindful in the Moment

There are three things you, and any virtual team member, can think about: the past, reliving things you messed up; the future, worrying about things you need to do later; and the present, what is happening right now. Barring using a time machine, the only place you can have an impact is in the here and now. Richard Carlson, Ph.D. said in his classic book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, “Now is the only time we have, and the only time we have any control over.”

While there are many benefits to being in the moment, for individuals and for virtual teams, here are three notable ones:

  • Increased enjoyment. Work, and any task, can be more pleasant when the mind is not elsewhere. It is easier to appreciate and enjoy things more when your conscious mind is an active participant, and not parked on the sidelines while your autonomous mind is in hyperdrive.
  • Reduced stress. Worrying about the past and future gives you stress. But being present is almost like meditation. There are fewer worries. There is simply more experiencing. Virtual team members can experience a different kind of stress from traditional workers: isolation. The mind can sometimes wander, and worry, more, in this environment.
  • Better relationships. When you really are mindful and commit yourself to being a better listener, team member, coworker, manager, you have better relationships. You have better conversations. You bond. Forming such bonds is one of the most successful things any team manager or CIO can accomplish “for superior performance in virtual teams.” (Harvard Business Review, 06/2013)

Virtual Teamwork

Mindfulness is awareness about moment to moment thoughts of the person and the team. It allows for better relationships, appropriate focus, and better presence among virtual teams Michele McDonald notes that “when we are actually connected with our current experience with single-pointed attention, we are free to form greater connections with others, to become more of a team.” (Dharma lecture, 04/2005) What CIO or team leader couldn’t use that?

Tell us how you create mindfulness within your team. We want to know.


By : Claire Sookman /March 31, 2016 /Uncategorized /0 Comment Read More

Are you ready to be the virtual leader or team member that you have the potential to be?

In our last post, we challenged you to assess how you show up, how you want to show up and how others think you show up to your virtual workspace. Because most of us all have blind spots to the attitude and awareness we bring to the table, it’s sometimes difficult to assess what our team members find challenging about the behaviours we show up with behind our screens or on the phone.

If you answered all the self-reflection questions fully and honestly, congratulations! If you didn’t get around to taking stock of how you show up, take a couple minutes and think about the following:

  • When I’m on a phone meeting and not face-to-face with others, am I actively participating in the conversation? Yes/No
  • Before responding to a team member who hasn’t been performing well, do I call and email him/her right away or do I step away from the situation to assess before responding? Take a moment here to think of a specific situation and spend a few moments reflecting before answering. Yes/No
  • I am easily distracted by my emails Yes/No Take some extra time here and reflect on how much time you spend checking personal emails and updates on social networks or other websites.
  • Do I respond with awareness in most situations? Yes/No Write down some virtual interactions (email, telephone, video conference) you’ve had in the last couple weeks and think about your level of awareness in each situation.
  • Do I generally react with my first thought, opinion or judgment? Yes/No
  • Do I take time each day for myself to do one healthy and stress relieving activity – meditation, yoga, and/or physical exercise? Yes/No

Would one of your team members agree or disagree with your answers? Copy and paste these questions into an email and ask someone on your team you trust if you have not done so already.

Perception vs. reality

We’d all like to think we’re giving our team members and projects we’re working on 100 per cent attention 100 per cent of the time, but that is neither realistic, nor attainable. Emotions, to-do lists, personal obligations, energy levels, etc. are constantly battling for our attention. However, by bringing a few mindful moments of awareness to each situation we can communicate in a less reactive and more influential way.

Think of it this way, when you’re driving a car there is always a blind spot. You know the blind spot is there, but what about those times you’re not consciously bringing your awareness to it. You check your mirror but you don’t shoulder check and wham, you might hit another car and crash.

The same thing happens in the virtual workplace. You’re half listening, thinking about what you need to get done later, checking your smartphone and only giving half of your focus to your project. Sooner or later, you’re team members start to pull back, maybe they quit responding to your requests in a timely manner, or maybe conflict and animosity start surfacing.

While you may think you’re doing everything right, you’re subconsciously letting others on your team down and conflict arises because you haven’t paid attention to the whole picture.

If you don’t know, how can you change?

Now that you have some basic levels of awareness on how you’re currently showing up, it’s time to paint an entire picture of the situation, not only your perception. Try sending your virtual team members a confidential survey to garner honest feedback with the following types of questions:

  • What behaviours am I exhibiting? For example:

o   Does it seem like I’m genuinely interested in what people on the call have to say?

o   Do I respond in a timely manner to emails and phone calls?

o   Do you feel that I’m listening when I respond to your phone calls?

o   How does my behaviour at work impact you and the team?

  • What would you like me to start doing that I have not been doing?
  • What would you like me to be stop doing that has been getting in the way of your productivity?
  • What would you like me to continue doing that has been helpful in your career growth?

Once you’ve collected this information from your team, what will you do with it?

Look again at the questions and determine the one that makes you most uncomfortable. Nine times out of 10 the one that gives you the most discomfort when you read it is the area you need to change the most. Now you will need to take action.Unless you take that first step and then the following ones, nothing will happen to help you reach your desired outcomes, no matter how clearly they’re defined.

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or send us an email at info@virtualteambuilders.com.



By : Claire Sookman /October 08, 2014 /Blog, Resiliency in a Virtual Environment /0 Comment Read More

    Virtual Team Builders is a training and consulting company that caters to corporations and teams who depend on effective virtual collaboration to succeed. Our training is targeted towards the unique challenges faced by teams operating in a virtual environment; challenges that are present whether members work 90 feet apart or 3000 miles apart.