What do you do during virtual meetings? Do you multi-task? Do you put the phone on mute? What do you wear on a work-at-home day? (Don’t worry, it’s a rhetorical question, I don’t expect you to answer.)
Most of us, at least occasionally, work remotely from the rest of our team. As a result, conference calls sometimes require our minds to come together virtually. The question is, have we gotten slack?
An associate recently asked me for advice on how to get the team engaged, rather than zoning out or multi-tasking, in virtual meetings. As an employee, she gets frustrated at meetings that feel lifeless and accomplish little.
One way of looking at meetings is that they are a reflection of the team itself. The formal leader sets the tone for the team and their meetings. However, in my definition of leadership, all of us are leaders and can influence our environment. So whether or not you are the formal leader, why not attempt to make an impact by doing something that gets others involved? I believe there’s a symbiotic relationship between the formal leader and the team – the leader needs to set the vision, communicate it, and consistently link back to the vision. The team members need to actively focus their roles on delivering on the vision. Ideally, the leader and members both contribute to the positive creation of energy.
I asked team expert, Tom LaForce, author of Meeting Hero, a book on how to plan and lead effective meetings, for his advice. Here’s what he said:
– First, review the purpose of the meeting. Does it require interaction and two-way communication? If the purpose is to inform, and discussion or questions are not expected, is a conference really necessary? As with any good meeting practice, the first rule is to consider the purpose and who needs to be present.
– When’s the last time your team reviewed ground rules? Was there a time when it was expected to see and hear each other and, over time, the practice withered away because it became too much effort? Consider the investment of everyone’s time in the meeting – adding up those dollars can provide renewed inspiration to juice up the meetings.
– If you are not the formal leader, bring up the idea to the manager. Offer to collaborate on managing the meeting. Here are some ways to help:
- Get a couple of colleagues to join you in requesting to add video and nix mute and multi-tasking. While it’s more comfortable to be faceless and voiceless, it is also not any fun. The objective is to spend time together that gets creative juices flowing and moves the work forward productively. Actively respond when people say something. If people feel their ideas are valued, they will willingly show up and contribute.
- Offer to be Yoda, the courageous voice who gets things back on track if they veer off course. (see “How to Run a Great Virtual Meeting”)
- Make a list of attendees and put a tick next to each person’s name when he/she speaks. Keep track and call on those who don’t say anything. For instance, “Joe, we haven’t heard from you, what do you think about this issue?”
- If others are slow to say something, stimulate the discussion by making the first comment and asking for others to chime in.
It takes courage to show up and be ready to engage in virtual meetings. It may take a bit more effort on everyone’s part to get all voices heard. The reward will be greater connection with colleagues while taking advantage of comfort and ease that technology provides.