With the emergency on top of that, many companies with outdated protocols have had to adapt to reality, and start working remotely.
The technology areas, which have long been asking for a runway to land with more flexible working methods in these companies that have been left behind Today, they have a key role to play: they need to ensure that everything continues to work with people from their homes.
The truth is, when the Coronavirus passes, we will have many challenges ahead, and among them is the create new working culturesHow to measure productivity (whether face-to-face or at a distance) and how to capitalize in terms of experience on this great collective global learning.
One of the most worrying issues in business is the other virus that has been around forever, called Reunionitis.
In Latin America, 40% of time is lost in unproductive meetingsthat is to say, they are useless.
For those leaders and organizations who love long meetings where little is decided and a lot is said, the move to the virtual world does not change the rules of the game much, since, from the home office of the moment, they can be extended for hours, or, worse, have the whole team connected all the time and in sight to see if they are indeed working.
This world is changing forever, and if you are not prepared to face the challenge, worse times will come when the pandemic passes, or another serious problem bursts in.
Therefore, it might be a good idea to begin to moderate that idea that we will soon be back to the way things were, because, I am sorry to inform you, nothing will ever be the same again.
A few months ago, I was called to work with a change management team that was leading the transformation of thousands of people from a distance into a corporate merger. A large number of psychologists, sociologists, marketing specialists and communicators were extremely concerned because, remotely and virtually, they were unable to impact people or clearly convey messages despite the amount of resources allocated and being applied.
The answer was simple: they didn’t consider other people’s point of view, nor the emotional management that every company should do in times of profound transformation.
That’s why facilitating meetings, seminars and online encounters can be a challenge for those who are not trained, and the techniques vary, so it is advisable to learn to unlearn the usual ways, and incorporate the new ones.
Online meetings avoid displacementsThe use of the “time out” system: this saves the collaborators’ time and allows them to focus on the project they are working on.
The audios of the meetings can be recorded and even unrecorded: not only as a testimonial value, but also to keep a record of the topics discussed and the decisions made.
Sharing documents and correcting them Collaboratively on the spot: this is of great value for accessing real-time information and making it available to colleagues.
The agendas yield moreIf they come from companies with acute meeting disorders, the on-line format does not guarantee it, although it will help to make the processes more dynamic. Virtual meetings are less time consuming and more about getting down to business and reaching agreements.
You force and control who has the floor, and avoid overlaps and interruptions. Muting the microphone and even the video of each participant is allowed.
Number of unlimited guests or very restricted: far from being seen as slots gathered in the boardroom with two or three, instead of the usual five -for example-, the virtual eliminates this problem of jealousy or professional competence.
It is easy to include a person in a short section of the conference, for example, to give a glimpse of a topic, without having to leave the meeting room in person.
Prepare the agenda:
It is essential that everyone has the topics to be addressed in advance and prepares what each one has to contribute. I also suggest opening a feedback loop to collect concerns from others in order to incorporate aspects to be addressed, and specify the start and end times.
Send the invitations
Each member will receive an invitation on the chosen platform, to add it to their virtual calendar, or they can download it to their paper diary. Usually these invitations already include the access code to the meeting and the direct link.
When working at a distance, it is essential to avoid background noise, distractions, loud music and any other aspect that might scatter the focus of each participant.
Cell phones silenced:
While it is important to have it on hand for any emergency related to the meeting (e.g., one each technology communicating through a chat group), it is recommended that it be silent or vibrate throughout the meeting.
My favorites are Zoom, Google Hangouts or Skype, which have a lot of stability, flexibility, are easy to use and have several interesting features. There are paid options that also extend these options. It is important to make sure that everyone has an internet seal and downloads the appropriate programs to their devices.
Preparing people for the virtual meeting
For example, a 10-minute briefing on the previous day will introduce the main topics, and you will also make sure that everyone is familiar with the technology and that there are no major drawbacks.
Start and end on time
A virtual meeting is not an after-party with friends: it has the same dynamics as a face-to-face one.
Determining who leads the meeting
You can be the maximum responsible for a team, or, within the collaborative leadership, we encourage that it can be a rotating role depending on the issues.
Virtual meetings are governed by the same confidentiality parameters as face-to-face meetings, so it is important to establish in advance the protocol to be developed in this regard.
The technology areas can be in charge of ensuring data security aspects and suggesting the best technologies in this respect.
Illustrate your ideas
Being online somehow limits non-verbal language in exchanges; hence it is extremely important to keep three things in mind:
Make it fun, rich and dynamic
Practice different ways of reflecting ideas, thinking about visual, auditory and kinesthetic audiences. Bring the explanation together to cover all three representational systems and make sure your message gets through.
Check how the meeting is going: ask control and emotional management questions, in the style of how we are going here, has the point x become clear to the whole team? Make them raise their hand (even Zoom has that function, virtual); I recommend you to apply your creativity so that it feels like you are together.
If you’re going to show documents
Be sure to master the screen sharing function. Keep in mind that in a face-to-face meeting there is more context to discuss topics; in a virtual meeting I suggest that you send them before, or those present and send them immediately after, as soon as the conference is over. Moreover, you should have the link or e-mail ready to share it and that everyone has the information quickly.
Take notes and make a summary of the meeting
Even if it is recorded, it is important to continue with the dynamics of taking notes and making the minutes of the topics discussed, their deadline and those responsible. In this way we can make a better follow up. Everything needs to be dumped into a shared system, such as the corporate server, Dropbox, Drive and other existing ones, so that no one plays the game of self I do not know.
Also before finishing, to make a recapitulation of the commitments and decisions taken.
In the case of a crisis such as the one we are experiencing due to the Coronavirus in March 2020, it is important to incorporate an executive coaching tool, which I propose for all types of meetings, beyond the extreme moments: Check in, Check out. At the beginning you will take a few minutes for each one to express what they feel or want, to understand as a meeting leader in which emotional state people are. In the end, the Check out is usually more related to the outcome of the meeting; although you can encourage yourself to shoot a powerful question to reinforce the commitments, for example: What new challenge can you take from today to improve your performance while doing home-office?
* Daniel Colombo
Facilitator and Executive Master Coach specialized in CEOs, top management, professionals and teams; professional communicator; international speaker; author of 30 books. LinkedIn Top Voice Amrica Latina 2019.
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