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Clearview® Performance Systems brings you ... ® ... a Culture of Results & Engagement®

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #68

Do Your Remote Meetings Make You Sound and Look "Half-Dressed"?

Many leaders are very effective at leading and actively participating in team meetings ... when the meetings are in-person. However, now that everyone's been forced to operate remotely, many of these same leaders struggle to retain the same level of interconnectedness they previously enjoyed. In an attempt to stay connected with their respective teams, many have turned to telephone conferencing ... and it hasn't been pretty!

Before I delve into some refreshing ideas for you, let's start with a quick tally of the benefits that can be derived from in-person meetings with our teams:

  • Communicating face-to-face is highly engaging—people will not only hear what you're saying, they'll perceive the greater meaning of your tone, voice inflection, emotion and body language.
  • You can see and respond to employee reactions—like facial expressions and body language—as well as to their tone of voice.
  • In-person meetings discourage multitasking (giving you a better chance of getting their full attention).
  • A face-to-face meeting is a great space to 'invite' participation from every member of your team.
  • Face-to-face interaction/socialization builds a sense of community and camaraderie.
  • Meeting rooms can be very flexible and collaborative. Want to stand up and draw on a whiteboard or flip chart? Go for it! Want to gauge agreement through a quick show-of-hands? Just ask! Want to split up the team into small breakouts? Done! Want to pass around a document? Easy!

Acknowledging all of the benefits listed above, please let me ask you a critical (but probably rhetorical) question:

"Do you think a simple telephone call will give you that same level of interaction?"

Not a chance!

A basic telephone conference call is a poor replacement for an in-person meeting because we're hardwired to understand the ebb and flow and nuances of a conversation. That's why conference calls sound more like talking on walkie-talkies: "Hey Sally, I need that budget information"—chirp—"Okay, I’ll send it right over"—chirp. To prove my point, we've all stumbled over another person's words when we thought they were done talking. "You go ahead ...". "No, you go ...".

I know you're laughing right now, but—sadly—these types of conversations are taking place every day!

In this issue of CORE Bites, I'd like to introduce you to the concept of 'fusion' meetings. By 'fusion' I mean the artistry of combining two (or more) interactive components/tools seamlessly into a team conference call to emulate (possibly even replicate) the engagement, participation, collaboration, and communication effectiveness of an in-person meeting.

But before you jump to the conclusion that I'm referring to videoconferencing ... not so fast! While videoconferencing may be a viable option in certain situations (and for some groups), I'm dedicating this entire issue to practical ideas that will breathe extra life into your team telephone conference meetings ... and fully engage your people in the topic of discussion.

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

To use the tools I'm going to describe below, you will be using whatever videoconferencing platform your organization subscribes to, however, you will NOT be using the screen sharing and/or the video elements. In essence, you'll be setting up a video conference meeting but in the settings you will a) turn off the video feature and b) mute all attendees (this can be set to be your default).

You will also want to make sure all of your employees are listed in your videoconferencing contact list so when they dial in/login they will be identified making it easy for you to unmute them when required. It's also advantageous for each employee to have the videoconferencing mobile app installed so they can remote in from anyway and use the features described below. An added benefit of using this approach is you can record the entire meeting for anyone who may be unable to attend.

When your telephone conference meeting begins, everyone (except you) will be muted. This eliminates the annoying 'dings' and distractions when people are arriving late. This will also serve to condition people to the fact that you will be starting your meetings on time (and not ... "We'll wait a few more minutes for everyone to dial in.").

Here are the tools that can dramatically improve engagement during your telephone conference calls. [Hint: Combine them in a creative way to keep things interesting.]

  • Mute/Unmute: To eliminate people talking over each other, as well as eliminate background noise and entry/exit noise, everyone is initially on mute during a fusion call. You will probably have individuals during your meeting who have speaking roles. The Mute/Unmute feature is a simple 'click' to unmute and another 'click' to mute again making this a very easy feature to control. Spontaneous speaking roles will be identified through Chat or through the Raise-Hand features.
  • Chat: The 'Chat' feature allows streamlined communication to occur publicly (with the entire group) or privately (between you and specific people). The Chat feature allows you to ask the group if someone has something to add (so you can unmute them) or you could send a private Chat to an individual who you would like to unmute to let him/her comment on a particular topic. Look at the Chat feature as simply 'texting' between each other during your conference call. An added benefit is this chat can be saved for later use.
  • Quick Vote: During my virtual training programs and my virtual meetings I use the 'Raise-Hand' feature a lot to gauge the degree of acceptance of an idea or concept. All I have to say is “Show of hands if you agree with ...”. This is a wonderful (and quick) litmus test without having lengthy go-around-the-room dialogue.
  • Quick Poll: The 'Polling' feature is incredibly powerful because you can pre-program questions you would like to ask or—as I do frequently—I simply ask the question and then launch an instant poll. Immediately following the poll I can then show the results to the group. Something I rarely see mentioned, but I believe is very important, is this feature reduces groupthink because, unlike live meetings where people are influenced by other responses, all Polling responses are private until you display the team's total view.
  • Interactive Whiteboards: Meeting participants can interact on a group Whiteboard that provides many annotation possibilities. Annotations can be done free-form or created over a chart, graph, spreadsheet, or any other document that you would like input on. The name of each individual annotating is shown to help you keep track of who is offering input/suggestions.
  • Breakout Rooms: When situationally appropriate, you may want to consider using the 'Breakout Room' feature to allow smaller groups to work on specific components of a larger plan or specific aspects of a larger problem/challenge. When in these breakout rooms, everyone can be unmuted for open discussion. Participation in each breakout room can be assigned randomly or you can preselect (based on various criteria) the specific members of each breakout group. With one 'click' you can end a breakout session and everyone will be reassembled. You can then call upon one member of each breakout group to provide a synopsis of the work done in their breakout session.
  • Document Share: Frequently you will have documents that you can't send in advance of your meeting because some explanation is required. The 'fusion' meeting format handles this nicely because you can—on-the-fly—add any document to your meeting.

These features are very powerful and can help make your next telephone conference call much more engaging and interesting. The key is becoming familiar with the technology—like anything else new, if it's unfamiliar it can also be uncomfortable (or seem complicated). Based on my own personal experiences, the features I described above are actually pretty simple; have some fun practicing before your next meeting—you'll appreciate the difference they make!

I'd love to hear how these HVAs work for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"If you never want to be criticized, for goodness’ sake don’t do anything new!"

— Jeff Bezos —