Building a strong company culture can be difficult for any organization, but it is especially challenging for businesses with remote employees. This was the case for the research and consulting firm Principia, whose team consists of approximately 20 employees and contractors, working hundreds of miles apart.
“We all work remotely, and we’re spread out all over,” says Brooke Cowell, VP of Marketing at Principia. “It’s difficult to get to know each other better as individuals since we’re not physically all located in one place. It makes it hard for us to understand and describe who we are, from a cultural perspective.”
Lou Rossi, Managing Partner at Principia, says the leadership team tries their best to bridge the distance gap between employees, and build up company culture.
“We use technology to keep ourselves connected,” explains Lou. “And our entire team gets together once a quarter. But as much as we try to create those formats to share, it comes down to the individual to reach out and talk to his or her peers.”
Recently, the challenge became even more important as the team at Principia started to grow quickly.
“We’ve reshaped our team through the hiring process and the company has almost doubled in size over the last year,” says Lou. “There are enough of us now that we needed to make sure we are aligned, and on the same page. And doing everything remotely made that even more challenging.”
So, the leadership team decided it was time to bring in an expert.
“We wanted to bring someone in from the outside, who could help us get to know each other better, and help us work together on a more personal level,” Brooke remembers. “We wanted someone who would be able to identify better ways for us to work together.”
“It’s difficult to get to know each other better as individuals since we’re not physically all located in one place. It makes it hard for us to understand and describe who we are, from a cultural perspective.
Principia had never brought in a training facilitator before, so Brooke says the company started out by searching online.
“We did a ton of Google searching, and reached out to several different organizations,” Brooke says. “Most of all, we wanted to make sure that we connected with whoever it was that was going to lead these sessions, because they were going to get to know us on a very personal level, including some of our weaknesses. We needed to be able to feel vulnerable, as well as guided.”
After some searching, Brooke called up Outback Team Building & Training, and spoke with Lyndon Friesen, Lead Skill Development Facilitator.
“We had several phone calls with the Outback team, and interacted with Lyndon directly,” says Brooke. “Ultimately, Lyndon was the reason we decided to go with Outback.”
The leadership team at Principia liked how genuine, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable Lyndon came across.
They decided to pull the trigger, and bring Lyndon on board to facilitate a skill development session at their next quarterly meeting.
The session was called Emotional Intelligence, and it focused on strengthening the team’s relationships and building up their self-awareness.
“It instantly felt like Lyndon was a part of Principia’s team,” says Brooke. “He was extremely passionate when he was working with us, and you could tell he was getting excited about the possibilities, which made the whole room feed off that energy.”
Not only did the interactive training session bring their team closer together, but Brooke says it also gave them some key insights and takeaways.
“We had an amazing moment as a team when we opened up our vulnerabilities to everyone in the room,” says Brooke. “I felt energized and excited about what we could do afterwards. Not only from a high level…but tactical elements that we could walk away with and actually implement.”
Lou says that in the months since their training with Lyndon, they have already started to see results.
“It worked,” Lou puts simply. “We’ve found that we were more aligned than we thought, that we had some common-rooted interests in respect, in trust. Lyndon helped us really work together to build our business this last year.”
Brooke says that the training has even had an impact on the team’s day-to-day interactions.
“I think we’ve learned to be more emotionally aware of others, and give individuals the opportunity to express their opinions and listen,” says Brooke. “We’re more aware of our interactions with each other, and I think that’s also helped with our connections.”
In fact, the session was so successful that Lou says the team unanimously decided to bring back Lyndon for two more training sessions at their next quarterly meeting.
“Truth be told, the reason we were doing this was that we felt there might have been an emotional disconnect,” says Lou. “And this gave us an opportunity to connect more emotionally. We did that through formal learning, as well as more casual team building exercises, and I think we’ve continued to try to build that into how we interact together.”
Looking forward, Lou says he wants to continue to develop the relationships and skills of his team.
“There was a quick hand raise at the end of our meeting whether we wanted to have Lyndon come back, and again it was unanimous. I feel like he can continue to do more good for us.
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