Leaders and Managers: Are you zooming in on the right things when meeting with your virtual team?
We have all been investing a lot of time and attention to our technology screens lately through the virtual meeting platforms of Zoom, Google Meet, GoToMeeting, Slack and others dominating our days but are we zooming in on the right things?
Whether leading, listening, or orchestrating, the virtual focus can be exhausting. If you have global teams, there may be language or accent barriers that may require extra attention for clarification – to avoid confusion or conflict.
And, whether intentional or not, we are “zoomed in” to our colleagues’ personal home environment, body language, voice inflection, distractions, and micro expressions; those barely perceptible facial expressions that occur within a fraction of a second revealing a person’s true emotions.
Important skills for virtual leaders
What you are seeing in your virtual team meetings, that you may never have noticed before, is a “focused and magnified reality”, if you are being sincerely attentive. Are you noticing deeper focus or intensity on the faces, and in the voices of your team members? An “argh” of anger or anxiety? An “ugh” expressing disgust? A yawn of exhaustion or boredom? Or perhaps a sincere smile and a loud “yay” to congratulate achieving a team milestone.
Virtual teams are different. They rely on visual and audio communication technology to connect members across time, space, and geography. As a result, being able to quickly read people is an important skill for leaders. It is an even more critical skill in the virtual realm, especially when words and body language do not match up or cultural differences collide.
The visual portion of your team meeting is just one piece. Listening also becomes key. We must listen with intent, so we do not miss clues or opportunities for inquiry, exploration, and discovery to understand how our teams are really doing.
With all that going on, how can you assure that your team is accelerating the creation of insights and new ideas, exhibiting a zest for problem solving, acting with a sense of urgency, and creating an enthusiastic team experience?
Improve the quality of your next virtual team meeting
Give great attention to these 5 tips for they can make a notable difference in the quality of your next virtual team meeting. Keep the team mission at the forefront and the miscommunication to a minimum.
- Purpose – Remind everyone that the virtual meetings are purposeful working sessions designed to move the ball down the field and closer to the goal. Keep the team focused on the goal. A clear, compelling purpose is a must to hold the team together. When teams know the direction they are headed, they act and move with confidence. There may be obstacles along the way, but they know how and where to get clarity and move forward. Restate the team purpose frequently. Gauge the effectiveness of your team regularly.
- The Three R’s – No, it’s not reading, (w)riting and (a)rithmetic. The three R’s having an impact on today’s teams are relationships, responsiveness, and respect. Relationships: Trust is the foundation of every good relationship and with it comes open, honest, more effective communication. Responsiveness: Make responsiveness a priority. It aligns with accountability and each team member has control of their ability to be responsive and accountable. Respect: Actions speak louder than words and respect of fellow workers shows up in engaging with others and valuing their input and ideas.
- Be the Leader – Be the leader people want to work with; respectful, competent, motivating, confident, fair, receptive, supportive, honest. The most effective leaders know their company culture and team members’ personality, skills, abilities, aspirations, and capabilities that are a best fit. When teams run into roadblocks, effective leaders remove barriers to enable innovative problem solving and creativity. Remember, you can show up and be a leader without “leading a team”.
- Insightful Conversations – Frequent, honest, clear, two-way communication is highly needed and valued among teams. The more effectively you communicate with those around you, the richer your relationships will be. Recognize the value in the diversity of your team and help move communication to a meaningful next level. Exchange ideas, spark insightful conversation, clear the air waves, encourage objective feedback, and leave the defensive feedback behind. Embrace honesty, listen deeply, build trust. There is no substitute for action.
- Don’t Jump to Conclusions – If your team is new to the virtual world, be careful not to judge too soon. It takes time to learn new skills like how to keep a headset on, how to get just the right viewing height with a stack of books, how to mute oneself while disciplining one’s dog or comforting a crying child, cursing the loud leaf-blowers, avoiding a cross-eyed look while focusing on a small red dot, and of course remembering to wear pants!
The energy required to stay intensely engaged and focused in virtual meetings can be exhausting. Developing new listening and observational skills may be powerful and exciting for some yet create high levels of anxiety for others. We have all heard someone say, “I can’t do another call, I’m exhausted, I’m Zoomed out!”
Train yourselves to mindfully observe what is really going on in your virtual meetings. Doing so could make enough of a difference to move the needle toward more innovative problem-solving breakthroughs. Your next virtual team meeting could move from passive and boring to one of enthusiasm and high energy collaboration!
Diane Gibson is President & Founder of DMG Consultancy, Ltd., a management consulting firm specializing in teams, leadership and organizational development and partners with clients to accelerate performance, develop leaders and build great teams!