It seems like a dream that we once only held team meetings in person, congregating around the water cooler, and chatting with coworkers in the hallways at work. Those opportunities to engage, make connections, and even promote productivity have been lost to the pandemic. Since the 2020 mass exodus from brick and mortar workplaces to makeshift offices in our homes, we’ve relied on virtual team meetings for genuine human interaction with our colleagues. We’ve struggled to find a rhythm that works. We’ve ridden the roller coaster of change hoping that next week or next month, there will be a reprieve. But, the reality is this: acclimating to change is the new normal.

In 2020, forty-two percent of the US labor force started conducting work through virtual team meetings, phone, text, and email. We were relegated to our own private silos, which made it harder to develop and maintain positive relationships with workmates. Just seeing others’ faces on a conference call is not enough. And messaging, for better or worse, leaves a lot to the imagination. We need community like we need oxygen. That means it’s imperative that we continue to find ways to form company culture that allows us to thrive. So how do we accomplish this when almost all of our interactions are done virtually and through the written word? Just follow some simple math concepts that we learned as kids.

Virtual Team Meeting Tip #1: Add Or Subtract

Meetings are a necessary evil. They eat into valuable time that could be spent completing other work. However, they also allow us to share information in a planned manner and discuss solutions to work-related issues in real time. The problem is that when people don’t want to be there it’s fairly obvious. If you’ve ever presented to a group, you know how awful it feels when other people in the meeting are only half-listening. They might be working on something else, checking their phones, or just plain zoning out. These behaviors and their corresponding attitudes can suck the creativity and possibility right out of the room. This is especially true for virtual team meetings. Therefore, when you attend a meeting, it’s really important to consider whether you are adding to it or subtracting from it.

Show Your Work

Everyone brightens a room. You just have to figure out if you brighten it when you walk in, or when you walk out. To make sure it’s the former, set a positive intention before you log into a virtual team meeting. Truly tune into what’s being said so you can add value to the conversation.

Tip #2: “I” as a Factor

Being seen, heard, understood, and affirmed are critical to our well-being. Nonetheless, it’s important to find a balance between getting our own needs met and meeting the needs of those we work with. This is especially true when working as part of a team. It’s impossible to leverage everyone’s individual strengths, unique perspectives, and contributions if one person is dominating the conversation and spotlight. As little league coaches say, “there is no ‘I” in team.” And, taking others’ needs into account is not about getting all touchy-feely. It’s about building positive healthy relationships.

Show Your Work 

Consider whether you constantly steer conversations back to yourself, interrupt others, or monopolize the group’s time and attention during team meetings. If you do, make a conscious effort to be inclusive. Ask people questions about themselves, their opinions, or their ideas. If possible, spur interaction by taking turns leading sessions to give everyone a chance to contribute. Demonstrate that you value others’ contributions to the team by affirming their points and asking related questions. Even a simple “thank you” or thumbs up on Slack can make a positive difference.

Tip #3: Positive or Negative Value?

“Did you hear about so-and-so?” “I can’t believe they did/didn’t…” We, humans, are social animals by nature, but sometimes the way we try to connect has negative consequences. Take gossip, for instance, which is typically rooted in jealousy or anger and based on conjecture. It’s a destructive force in the office and is especially corrosive to teams where trust, coordination, and collaboration are critically important. This behavior may not happen during team meetings, but if it happens at all, it affects the dynamic of the team.

Show Your Work

Do you take part in office gossip or spread negativity? Are you an instigator needing attention? Maybe you don’t instigate it, but when a teammate starts talking about someone behind their back, do you join in? Whether you are actively taking part in gossip or passively listening, you’re still complicit and you’re hurting your team. So, bite your tongue and remember what your teacher always said:  “If you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing at all.” Then excuse yourself from the negative situation.

Tip #4: Focus on the Solution

Do you know someone who could win a million dollars in the lottery and still complain about the taxes? The fact is you can either choose to see the positive or negative in any situation. Know that when you’re a part of a team, your tendency to see the negative – even if you eventually get around to the positive – is noticeable, and can rub off on your teammates. Emotion is contagious, so leave your inner Negative Nellie at home. You want your virtual team meetings to be pleasant and productive.

Show Your Work

When presented with a new idea, do you see the opportunities or the challenges? When asked for input, do you point out problems or offer solutions? By framing your conversations with benefits, possibilities, and solutions you will help drive your team and organization forward. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in the muck of negativity.  

Tip #5: Not All Actions are Equal

We’ve mostly worked out the technical kinks of working remotely. Now it’s time to focus on the human factor. It’s important to remember that meetings are opportunities to think big, solve problems, and make a difference in the organization. Here are a few more tips to help you be a valuable part of an effective virtual team meeting, as well as a great team player:

  • Untether from your phone, don’t just silence it. This is especially true if you are meeting in a virtual space like Google Hangouts. Instead, put it in another room so you’re not tempted to peek. 
  • Come to the meeting prepared and be on time.
  • Enable the video function so that your actions and responses are visible to all, because we all behave better when others are watching!
  • Present a positive, productive, and creative mindset. 
  • Ask relevant questions and make polite comments even when debating.

The office has changed and we have to adapt. By following these simple tips, you’ll be a better team player and your virtual team meetings will be positive and productive experiences.

The culture (r)evolution starts with you.  

If you’d like to get the entire team involved, give us a call.  We offer customized group training on effective communication that we can deliver virtually or in person.

This post was originally published on August 27, 2020

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