As business anxiety is setting in over the Coronavirus, more companies are asking their employees to work remotely. As someone who has worked remotely for years, this may not seem like a new concept. However, for those employees who are used to working in an office, it can be challenging to stay focused and be successful.

It’s important for leaders to help employees effectively transition from working in a steady office environment vs. working at home. Fortunately, there are many articles on the topic of managing remote workers that cover the considerations for any leader/manager to hone those skills. That’s not what we want to talk about today.

At Corporate Path Leadership, we’d like to go beyond the basic business advice, and narrow in on how leaders can help leverage the virtual meeting to build a great remote team.

Why this focus? Because most people view virtual meetings as something to dread. And most virtual meetings fail on their ability to inspire attendees and keep them engaged.

Here are three best practices for stepping up your leadership of a virtual meeting and building your team in the process:

#1 – Get Personal

Too often, time is the enemy of a meeting. In a time-crunch, leaders will want to jump right in and get to business/decision making. Or start with a round robin of what projects everyone is working on, and move immediately into quick informational sharing mode.

ACTION PLAN: A better rule of thumb is to allow the first 10 minutes of a team meeting for a personal check in with the team. Ask if anyone had recent wins or exciting news in their personal lives. And share as a leader when you have personal news — making yourself more approachable. This simple ice breaker approach for meetings gets everyone relaxed before the meeting starts. Doing this via video brings the whole team together and focuses energy on connecting with others.

#2 – Replace Passivity With Participation

One of the biggest killers of a web meeting is having one person do all of the talking. With a room of people surrounding you, it is easy to see when energy is waning. But in a virtual environment, too many conversation points end up with a leader saying “any questions” only to hear silence.

ACTION PLAN: To get participation ramped up in a virtual meeting, try making a list of questions to ask the team every few minutes. When asking the questions, make sure to call out a specific person’s name for an answer. And rotate who you are calling on so everyone will know they are expected to participate.

For example, you could say “So you just heard about a new process that we are considering for the team. I’d like all of you to think for a second about how that might apply to you. Jeannie, let’s start with you — how do you think this process would impact your daily routine?”

#3 – Add The Element Of Surprise

Surprise can come in many forms — and for a virtual team meeting, adding something unexpected from time to time can lead to team members feeling a greater desire to attend.

ACTION PLAN: The key with this tactic is to use it sparingly and use your creativity to come up with new ideas. Here are several ideas for adding the element of surprise:

  • Announcing a birthday for a team member.
  • Creating a non-planned award for exceptional team member(s) performance.
  • Adding a personal/fun topic that is not on the agenda (and not part of the personal introduction time).

  • Bringing in an outside guest speaker from another part of the organization (like the CEO).
  • Telling an inspirational story that either comes from inside the business, or relates to a business goal.
  • Having a specific team member run the meeting (with or without your participation) — to give the team a different perspective.

With more virtual meetings on the way, make sure that yours will drive inspiration and not desperation. Test out the ideas above or hopefully you’ll come up with your own ideas that stem from this list.

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