So, many professionals are now working remotely. (Hats off to all those professionals who still have to work face to face during this COVID-19 pandemic.) Between Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meetings, etc. we are all growing accustomed to working with others through video conferencing technologies. Although, even a few months into this, we still experience those awkward moments hearing your dog in the background or you helping your 3rd grader understand that fraction math problem. The mute button has never been more important than in 2020 corporate life.
Here’s the deal though. I have been in enough remote meetings in the last several COVID-19 months to witness a peculiar phenomenon. What remote meetings have now empowered employees to do is to privately acknowledge, praise, and thank video conferencing participants for bold comments made during the meeting that they didn’t have the mental fortitude or courage to make themselves.
Just today I questioned our communication strategy rationale and things got a little heated. During the conversation several other onlookers privately chatted me comments like “I agree!” and “Thanks for representing the little people!” I replied to all of them with a thumbs up, but it made me wonder how often in 2019 and before did meeting participants sit quietly in face-to-face meetings wishing they could thank that brave soul who “stood up to the man?”
Leaders need to ask themselves a hard question:
Do your remote meeting participants text each other in private chats more than talk to everyone in the video meeting?
Is your meeting culture creating psychological safety to make comments that may even cause a little conflict during the meeting? See more on that in another article here. A leader may never know how many private chats are going on during their virtual meeting. Just assume they are happening and make some changes to encourage group discussion. Not convinced? What if I evoke the word “Google.” We all give credence to that company (whether deserved or not). Let me break down the research Google did for us…
Several years ago Google wanted to build the perfect team. They created a group of researches and named the effort “Project Aristotle.” After a year of researching almost 200 teams they found some interesting results to what makes some teams thrive and others dive. Skipping to the end, Project Aristotle discovered two key features of successful teams.
- all team members spoke approximately the same amount of time (conversational turn-taking).
- all team members were skilled at knowing how others felt (high social sensitivity).
Need more on this, just google “Project Aristotle.”
The point? Good leaders create environments where people feel safe discussing hard topics, especially topics where not everyone agrees. Crucial Conversations says these convos have three elements: 1.) strong emotions, 2.) high stakes, and 3.) opinions vary. A good leader strives to create an environment where these conversations are welcomed and safe.What’s more, Google found that good team members are sensitive to the fact that hard topics sometimes create hard feelings, but that these team members do their best to keep it professional and compassionate anyway.
Pro-tip for the boss who is wondering if the side chat is alive and well in whatever video conferencing tool they use. For those bosses, pay attention to the amount of typing, squinting, and non-verbal facial expressions that are happening during the verbal conversation. There is likely a lot more going on than what is verbally being communicated.