An article in Entrepreneur, 7 Deadly Sins of Business Meetings, reminded me of something that happened to a colleague a few years ago -- long before webinars became common as effective remote employee communication business tools.
The issues that Mary ran into have not changed. She’d been recently promoted. As part of her new job duties, she facilitated a weekly sales meeting with regional sales staff, all done by conference call.
As the weeks went by, Mary began to notice that people joined the call later and later, and whenever the weekly meeting came up in conversation, it was increasingly obvious that no one was happy with them – and, in fact, considered them a waste of time. She finally pulled two sales managers aside to determine what was happening.
It turned out that Mary was making a common mistake for people new to management positions: She was trying to be too nice. In an attempt to create harmony, and be perceived as nice/likeable, Mary was not showing any leadership. If people were late joining the call, she made everyone either wait “just a few more minutes before we get started,” or she tried to play catch-up with the ones who joined late, wasting everyone’s time who had been punctual.
As a result, everyone was joining in later and later to avoid hanging around waiting for the meeting to actually start. As soon as Mary began the meetings promptly and told each person it was their individual responsibility to catch up on what they might have missed if they arrived late, things began to change. Fewer and fewer people joined the call late each week, and the meetings became a more productive way to keep everyone apprised of various company updates.
How can you show leadership in virtual or phone meetings? It’s more difficult when participants can’t see your body language and you can’t “read” their facial expressions. Leadership must be projected through your voice and your actions.
Here are 3 virtual leadership tips:
- Remember, you are not there to be nice or make friends, you are there to lead. Focus on what needs to be accomplished, and ensure you use a meeting agenda that includes next action steps.
- Stick to the arranged schedule/time. If meeting attendees are chronically late to meetings or disengaged in any way, yes, it’s difficult but you must speak to them one-on-one at a different time to address the situation directly. Letting it slide will not make them like you and it certainly will not garner respect.
- Engage attendees personally (call on people by name) during the conference call or webinar. This will keep your remote meeting attendees on their toes and let them know that you are aware they are present, even if you can’t see them.