We’re living in a world where remote work and remote meetings are here to stay. In fact, remotely may be the only way meetings take place these days. Meeting virtually may be a part of the “new normal,” but how can we make sure it’s time well spent? According to meeting expert Steven Rogelberg, our time in meetings has grown 500 percent in about a 40-year period. Some of the casual conversations we used to have next to the coffee machine have morphed into official meetings. It’s safe to say we are spending more time in meetings than ever before, and now that most meetings are remote because many teams no longer work in offices, new challenges make it even harder for meetings to be effective. The leaders managing remote employees are also facing new hardships when it comes to leading virtual communication.
What Are the Challenges of Leading a Remote Team?
As a leadership consultant, I spend a lot of time talking to leaders about the challenges they are facing with remote leadership. What I hear most is, “How can I keep my remote team engaged?” and “How can I maintain visibility and maintain a connection with my remote workforce?” If you look at those questions, it all comes back to communication. And how communication happens now is through virtual channels like Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, and more. Most communication is virtual, and a lot of it happens in meetings.
What Goes Wrong With Virtual Meetings Today?
The biggest problem with remote meetings—the amount! It’s quick and easy to set up a virtual meeting because there’s no need to book a conference room, arrange for travel, or so on. The downside to this is that we become overloaded with these meetings. With more than we’ve ever had in the past, we need to start asking, “Is that meeting really needed?” So, before you set up a meeting, ask, “Do I need input from others? Do things really need to be discussed?” If your answer is, “Yes,” set up that meeting. But if you find yourself thinking that the meeting is more about sharing information or giving an update after a decision has already been made, then maybe you should skip the meeting and send out an email instead.
What else goes wrong with virtual meetings today? It’s easy to forget the human aspect. Communicating screen-to-screen makes it easier to forget that there is a physical person on the other end. As you would in a face-to-face context, think of what personal and practical needs the person may have. Spend some time thinking about leadership essentials such as empathy, support, and involvement, and listen and respond authentically. People still need to feel that their perspectives are heard and valued. They need to know they have been understood and respected. This is a universal truth, no matter the channel of communication. Learn more about other best practices for leading remote meetings here.
How Many People Need to Be Involved in Virtual Meetings?
Everyone knows we should keep meeting attendees to a minimum. But what does this mean for virtual meetings?
Our tools make it so easy to add additional people to a meeting. This can happen with a simple click. However, as for a face-to-face meeting, you shouldn’t ask a person to join your meeting if you are not looking for their input.
The idea is that for every selected attendee, you should ask: Does this person need to be in the meeting? If a person is “just” listening in without providing input or asking clarifying questions, consider recording the meeting or sending follow up notes to those people. Every meeting attendee should know why they are there and what they are expected to contribute. Concepts such as “social loafing” still apply in the virtual world. And the rule of keeping attendees to a minimum to ensure maximum engagement still applies to virtual meetings. For more about how to effectively hold remote meetings, check out DDI’s blog.