John Ainley: Ensuring remote meetings create maximum value

Six ways leaders can run a better Video Conference

As more of us work from home during the coronavirus outbreak, many of us will already be experiencing a shift from physical, face to face meetings, to conference calls and videoconferences (VCs). While VCs are common practice for most firms, they tend to be used for standard, process or progress update matters. For more strategic or team development meetings, face to face meetings are the norm. This means that for leadership teams, there will need to be a careful focus on how VCs are run if they are to prove as effective when in the strategic, non-standard, concept and feeling-based meetings.

Here are six ways to help leaders run more effective VCs:

  1. Start the meeting with a ‘Check in’
    Get to know how people are as they enter the discussion and ensure that there is an acknowledgment of the difficult times we are going through. At the end of the meeting “Check Out” – how was the meeting, what went well, what not so well, what do we need to learn for next time?
  2. Ask someone who is not leading the call/meeting to be a facilitator for you
    Their role will be to keep a watching brief on thinking about people who may not be contributing or being spoken over by others, and to make sure they get heard.
  3. Actively invite input from the quieter, more introverted people
    Make sure you have a list of people on the call and ensure that you seek views from each of them. Equally, there may be people over-contributing. Make sure that they get listened to but not take up too much time.
  4. Ask someone to keep a note of the number of times individuals get treated badly/cut off/not listened to by the rest of the meeting
    Pay attention to gender or ‘type’ differences. Use that information to help improve future meetings by ensuring that you surface any difficulties that you have noticed and ensure you have a learning discussion about it.
  5. Take time to be silent and listen
    Be very careful not to speak more than you need to do when leading meetings; over contribution from the leader will make these meetings less interactive and diminish the collective IQ of the meeting.
  6. As Chair, be very clear that you want feedback and challenge for your ideas and contributions
    It is very hard for your people to push back over a VC. There are fewer ‘cues’ available to them and you as a Chair in a VC to signal you want feedback. You need to be very clear that you are overtly seeking feedback and challenge.

One problem from remote working is the ability to stay connected – see my colleague’s recent post. It’s vital that you think beyond the structured, formal VC meetings and think about what, as a leader, you can do to simulate those vital ‘water-cooler’ conversations – or drive-by connections– that you have every day that oil the wheels of business. Staying in touch informally using whatever channels of communication you have available will be critical over the coming days and weeks. ‘Be there’ for other team members who need some support; don’t overlook those that seem as if they don’t need support; and, don’t forget those extroverts who need connection to function, we all have needs from our co-workers.

(With thanks to Toby Redshaw at Verizon and many other members of our community and clients who supply insight and share best their practices with us)