Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Virtual Team Drinks

June 14, 2016

Many people say that the person most likely to be elected as the leader of a country is the one you’d most like to “share a drink” with (whatever that beverage may be…). This might sound like a strange measure of someone’s leadership qualities, but I think it’s because when you take some time out, you start to get to know people properly. There’s rarely a set agenda or strict time constraints – you learn about the person, their family and their hobbies.

Now, it’s probably fair to say most of us won’t get the chance to spend this time with the next President or Prime Minister, but if we look closer to home – how often do we spend this quality, relationship-building time with our work teams?

High performance work teams have changed almost beyond recognition over the past two decades. In particular, many are geographically dispersed across the globe, bringing time-zone challenges and meaning face-to-face meetings are time-hungry and expensive. Add this to the increasing pressure on work/life balance and inevitably, we rarely get to share that social experience.

Leading a sales team that is dispersed across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia, I am acutely aware of this challenge. How do we foster the right culture and ensure the mutual trust that is so crucial to a tight team, when we’ve spent so little quality time together?

Last time the whole team met face to face, we commented how although we speak with each other on pretty much a daily basis, via WebEx or TP, we normally have a rigid agenda and a “hard stop”. This brings us back to the challenge – we have very limited opportunity to really get to know one another. Sure enough, we realised we didn’t even know each other’s favourite sports, or the ages of each other’s children.

It seemed time for something new.

We looked to our collaboration tools for the answer and a couple of Thursday evenings ago, with everyone at home in front of their DX80, “Virtual Beers” was born.


Although a little strange at first – I’m pretty sure none of us had sat in front of a TP screen after work drinking a beer before (or in some cases fizzy water) – it turned out great. Not only do we now know that one guy has a two year old son who is great at skiing and that we have a keen mountain biker in the team, we also know that based on the live guitar rendition we received, a certain team member really should take a lesson or two!

Despite the changes we’ve seen over the years in how teams operate, everyone still wants to feel part of a collective of likeminded people that they care about. I’m not saying you can ever beat a face-to-face team meeting, but in reality we’re never going to bring global teams together every month.

Collaboration tools have become so good in recent years that we take them for granted – but usually for structured work tasks. I encourage everyone to explore how our technology can bring teams closer and help maintain a great culture.

Just make sure there’s a bottle in the fridge (or tea in the pot)!

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  1. Love this idea – we do the same with a weekly team coffee on Webex. We have been running it for about 6 months now, and we all feel closer and more connected as a team. I did wonder if the novelty would wear off, but week after week, everyone regroups for our Friday catch up. Whether its chatting about our weekend plans, or asking that top of mind work question that didn’t quite fit into a meeting, its true ‘water cooler’ conversation that we wouldn’t otherwise manage when we are not physically in the same office (or country!).