How to be a Hybrid Meeting Superstar!
Mastering the hybrid meeting is non-negotiable. It may not seem exciting but it is clear, if you don’t prioritize this skill, you will be left behind… Don’t let others be your failure. While I agree that challenges have been abundant, so have opportunities. We have forced technology to work in new ways, we have felt the disconnection of teams, we have challenged each other to be creative, and we have found new ways to solve problems, The next challenge, or maybe the biggest of them all is to not slip back into the “old ways”, to see the past few years as only a temporary fix until things “get back to normal.” I am here to tell you, this is the new normal and people are ready to make the adjustments permanent and expect their leaders to refine the details so communication and connection continue to improve. Working remotely is now preferred and despite the concern, research has shown that it is not only as profitable but actually leads to higher satisfaction, productivity, and increased retention IF led and managed well. So how do you do this well? In this recent episode of Coaching for Leaders, Dave interviews Tsedal Neeley who is an expert in teaching leaders to implement and scale their digital strategies. Specifically, how to effectively engage hybrid teams to improve engagement, profitability, and collaboration. Many struggle with how to create connection and trust within a team when most everyone is virtual. One of Tsedal suggestions is to integrate “structured unstructured time”. This is 5-10 minutes before each meeting in which participants are encouraged to share non-work information. Think of it as a virtual water cooler conversation. Allow people to open the doors into their personal lives (within reason). While this may initially seem like a waste of time, it is not. At the end of the day what most people want is to feel appreciated, valued, and seen. It is within this unstructured time that these elements come to the forefront. As the leader it is very important that you lead the way, you may be surprised how allowing your vulnerabilities to show will not only humanize you but will give permission to others to do the same. This creates humanness to the meeting and a deeper connection to work and colleagues. In a related episode, Dave interviews Hassan Osman where they talk about developing practices and policies around hybrid meetings in an effort to build inclusivity, consistency, and connection. The key to this strategy is to make sure that all participants, regardless of where they physically reside (virtually or in the office) have the same experience. In hybrid meetings, the virtual participants many times are/ or feel excluded from the conversation, miss the unspoken communication, and miss the nuances of the meeting. Leaving them feeling like outliers. Hassan has a few suggestions for this:
Be intentional and rigorous in your efforts to create a shared experience. Openly talk about what is working and what is not. Brainstorm solutions together.
Invest in a virtual whiteboard so all writings are experienced the same way. Here are some links to explore more. It is these small investments that draw attention to the collective and shows you are invested in everyone’s experience.
Ask everyone to turn on their camera and use the “buddy system” which connects an in-person participant with a virtual one. This partnership allows the dissemination of unspoken information and allows the virtual person to have a more active voice in the meeting.
Transform your meeting space into a “smart room” with appropriate technology and software. Look at your physical space. Is it set up “the old way” with the screen at the end and a round table? This does not allow for good visuals or connections. Try having all participants (virtual or physical) on a laptop, this way the playing field is leveled and all have the same experience. Here is a great article walking you through how and why to make this conversion.
There is so much more to this conversation but these ideas should get you going. Investing some time and energy into creating a great hybrid experience will undoubtedly pay off. Dig in and spend some time with the platform you use to capitalize on its capabilities.
My Challenge to You:
What is the one thing you can do today to elevate your hybrid experience?
Who on your team could you send this to ensure you are using and have the right technology available? Begin the conversation now.