When Vulnerability Is Embraced, Remote Teams Thrive

Alessandro Montalto PhD
7 min readApr 17, 2020

The world is changing fast. Remote work got a huge kick and people worldwide are struggling to adapt to a new mindset. Whatever your role in the remote team is, you need to keep an eye on who, among your team mates, is suffering from loneliness, disconnection, lack of belonging and a decrease in productivity. That person might also be you.

The final goal is to create a healthy remote environment to allow the whole team to thrive and be resilient to new and unpredictable challenges. The real question is how to reach such a tough goal — where to start and which solid strategies do you put in place to always converge towards the goal?

Let’s break the problem down, analyze it, and put the pieces back together to see the strategy that emerges.

Meaning Of Healthy Remote Team And Its Consequences

We first have to agree about what a healthy remote team is. You need to take the following parameters into account to define how healthy your team is:

  1. Leadership. A remote team can’t be healthy if the boss doesn’t see himself as one of the team players. A manager must understand that even though he has different responsibilities, his role isn’t above the others’.
  2. Vision. Does the team have an aligned vision of where the efforts of each remote worker are going and why? In other words, is everyone in the team fully aware of what he is doing and why with respect to the vision of the company and does he agree with that?
  3. Sense of belonging. Do the team members help each other without judging, organize (and take part to) online events, care for each other with respect to their private life too?
  4. Communication. How free to you feel to express your opinions, give and receive feedback? If it’s hard for you to digest a tough feedback, then a healthy communication channel is severed. If you don’t feel free to express your ideas, what are you afraid of? If the answer is the judgement of the other team mates, then there are definitely some adjustments to make to create a healthier remote team.

Now that you know the parameters according to which you can understand the health condition of the team you work with, I want to explain you why it’s so important to look at these specific parameters. Let’s adopt a bottom-up approach. When you care about establishing an open and active dialogue, either you are the leader of the team or not, you are paving the way for truly connecting with the other team mates. When there is connection, a sense of belonging will follow. If the team is closely knit, the same values are shared. And same values build a common vision.

If you are the leader of the team, then pay attention to the following implication. You want to be part of a great team, right? Than you have to start by establishing a great communication strategy that will lead the team to feel like they belong to your company culture and finally have the team aligned with the company vision and strategy. That’s the only solution to “be on the same boat” and start paddling all together towards the same destination.

Creating an awesome communication strategy is then the key to open the door to an amazing team work that will unlock creativity and, consequently, productivity. It doesn’t matter if you are the leader of your team. What matters is that you start communicating differently and I will tell you exactly how.

How To Create A Healthy Communication

So, communication is the first step towards working as a close-knit team. You can establish awesome remote routines that involve the whole team right now with the help of apps like lunsj. A great tool remote teams need to have to easily stay connected without bothering about all the distractions that come from taking care of the practical arrangements. Great tools are useful, but if you aren’t ready to use them properly you will experience some resistance and no matter how evolved the tool is, you will still feel lost, as I explained in more detail here.

Whenever you want to have an honest and open conversation, you need to understand the context and the dynamics involved. If you are a boss/manager/leader, then you need to keep in mind that there will always be a power game between you and the rest of the team. A boss can be the sweetest and most understanding guy in the world, but the simple fact that his role is to take decisions makes him powerful in the eyes of the others. I am not going to dive into the details of why. Let’s just say that we are all educated to look at whoever takes decisions as the one in charge and with more power.

Because of this unbalance, the communication channel is already compromised and so does the productivity of the whole team. Consequently, the destiny of the whole company is at stake. The only way to balance the team dynamics is to introduce vulnerability. I know that it’s scary, but it’s the only possible solution for a great team work to take place. In the words of Brené Brown, “through my research, I found that vulnerability is the glue that holds relationships together. It’s the magic sauce.”

Vulnerability And Its Benefits

Do you want to work surrounded by supportive people who are on the same page and with whom you share deep values and vision? Establish an excellent communication strategy right now. How? By embracing vulnerability! If your understanding of vulnerability and how it looks like is a bit foggy, let me help you get a clear overview.

Vulnerability is the conscious choice to genuinely and congruently express your true self, talking about your emotions and opinions out loud.

Think about how many times you wanted to add your contribution to an idea, but you refrained yourself from talking. Let’s take three possible scenarios into account.

  1. If you think that your idea would sound useless of even stupid, you are acting out of fear of judgement, not showing any vulnerability.
  2. On the other hand, if you think that it would be a better idea to first analyze your contribution in detail before sharing it with the team, you are taking the whole team into account, acting out of generosity. It’s a huge step towards vulnerability, but you are not there yet.
  3. If you instead give your opinion without any fear, you might end up saying something like “guys, I have a contribution to give. I didn’t analyze it extensively yet. I see some possible drawbacks in what you want to do and I might have some improvements. May I explain you my contribution?” Now you are talking! And you are acting out of a genuine interest in making things better, not only for you, but for the whole team. That’s vulnerability.

In the last scenario, it’s clear how you doubt about whether your idea can really bring some improvements. You allow the whole team to even decide not to listen to your contribution, being brave in the face of a possible rejection. Your attitude will encourage others to do the same and a real dialogue, based on a chain of constructive feedback, will arise. The whole remote team will then bond and thrive.

Imagine now for a moment how powerful the boost can be if the first to show vulnerability is the boss. In the previous section, I mentioned that vulnerability can level up the power game between a manager and the rest of the team. Now, it’s easy to understand that when a boss shows vulnerability, he is giving power back to the whole team. He is basically setting the example, being genuine and open to genuine feedback. That’s the beginning of a true remote culture!

Where To Start Right Now In Creating A Healthy Environment

You know what it takes to build a great healthy remote team where a sense of belonging, values and vision are shared. You also know that what you need in order to put that team together is a new communication strategy that lies on the solid foundations of vulnerability. You can start right now to embrace vulnerability. At the very beginning it will be tough, but rest assured that it will be wonderful in the long run.

Embracing vulnerability is the only way to gather around you an amazing team that will be resilient to new and unpredictable challenges. Vulnerability is the solution to bring like minded people together and work and learn with them to find the fastest, funniest and most profitable path to reach a common destination.

If you want to create a dream team, you have to be ready to embrace an unconditioned, free-from-personal-agendas and loving vulnerability. I know it’s tough and I am here to offer you my help and support in becoming more vulnerable and boosting the communication strategy that will make your team thrive.

How can you ask for help? By booking an assessment session with me where you can tell me more about your situation and I will tell you how exactly I can help you.

Originally published on alemontalto.com



Alessandro Montalto PhD

I mentor people to develop the required soft skills to become successful remote workers — alemontalto.com