Q: I’m part of a team that I like a lot. The problem is that I only see them in person a couple of times a year. The rest of the time they are in one place and I’m in a different city. My boss is a good guy, but doesn’t really follow through on team-building ideas. What can I do to keep from being out of the loop?
Alex, 41, IT test lead
A: The strong base you have established is a great starting point for continuing to build your work relationships.
Let’s start with the obvious: Are there ways for you to be at your central location more often? If you could work together in person even two or three more times in a year, it would make a difference.
Typically, though, companies don’t want to pay for travel unless there’s a specific reason for you to be there.
That’s where some creativity may pay off. Consider your team’s role and the specific contributions you make to the company. Then assess whether you can demonstrate efficiency, better results, or faster turnaround time if, for example, you meet in person with team members at key points in a project’s life cycle.
Also keep your eyes open for corporate special projects that interest you, and that may justify a trip to town.
Look for affordable ways to keep travel costs down. That could make a pre-defined travel budget go further so that you could add some additional time on site.
The easier you can make this for your boss, the more likely it is to happen. This is especially true in a case like yours, where your boss may be willing but it’s probably not a high priority for him.
On the more formal side, set up check-in calls with colleagues every week or two. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes, creating this practice will build day-to-day connection. If your boss has set up team meetings, make a priority of attending and participating.
Use your company’s messaging system to connect more informally. For example, ask for people’s opinions if there’s a new corporate strategy or key executive hire. Since they are on site, your co-workers could tell you what the scoop is around the office. Same with seeing what folks are saying about big news in your business sector. People love sharing their thoughts and it gives you yet another connection point.
Pay attention to the details of people’s lives. Knowing that they have kids in activities, that they run or golf, or that they have other interests and hobbies will help you find common ground.
The main thing to remember is that, while you will all benefit from knowing each other better and being more connected, the onus will be on you.
Make a priority of this, having at least a general plan on what you will do, and don’t let it slip. Just like external networking, vibrant relationships take effort but bring great personal and professional value.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and owner of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.