The dynamic of our workforce is continually changing. The current situation of COVID-19 has many organizations making quick, on the spot decisions. For instance, it is no longer safe for employees to work in their usual office spaces. So how are businesses adapting? Thankfully, many companies can offer remote work options – meaning that group operations, such as team meetings, are conducted virtually.

As companies navigate through these unpredictable times, at-home offices and virtual meetings have become the norm. The sudden shift from in-person meetings to virtual meetings require organizations to quickly find a solution – from finding a reliable platform to upholding productivity. Both employees and employers always need to be flexible and adapt. When faced with significant changes, it is crucial to utilize emotional intelligence. Using emotional intelligence enables one to empathize with others and is also the key ingredient in recognizing an individual’s own emotions to make better, informed decisions.    

Leading Effective Virtual Meetings

Whether virtual meetings are the favourite or most dreaded event in the workday, the question of “How to lead effective virtual meetings in times of uncertainty?” remains. Let’s be honest – when living in unprecedented times, it’s normal for employees to feel unmotivated and disengaged. To combat this, we put together our top three emotional intelligence tips to help kickstart productivity, engagement, and, ultimately, lead effective virtual meetings! 

1. Schedule Connection

The first step is to ensure that your employees are set for success for virtual meetings. Utilizing a meeting agenda is excellent at outlining purpose, updates, topics, and decisions. However, leaders need to ensure the schedule sets aside time for connection and collaboration. It’s easy to deliver a task over email, but purposeful conversation and direction happen face-to-face. Although teams cannot meet in person, leaders can put aside time each day for check-ins, recognition, and sharing positive news!

Set allotted time slots for each item to ensure employees are not losing opportunities to connect with colleagues. A leader can act as the gatekeeper to keep everyone accountable and ensure everyone gets a chance to be heard during the meetings. Even though there may only be one individual leading the discussion, that does not mean that it is a solo mission! 

Connecting is essential and helps employees build trust in the organization. When leaders can bring a level of trust in the organizations, they feel obligated to participate since they genuinely care about their opinions. Therefore, building trust is the most significant step towards effective meetings and a productive work environment.

Furthermore, your workforce likely spans across multiple generations, all with varying skill levels. Leading effective meetings means everyone has to participate. Leaders need to ensure all employees have the resources to participate in virtual discussions. Encourage younger generations to meet with older generations and help them through the challenges of setting up virtual meetings. By understanding the different levels of skill in the organization, leaders can provide the proper support to all generations. Leaders will eliminate stress and supply employees with the new skills and knowledge required for the upcoming virtual meeting! 

2. Flexibility and empathy go a long way

Working from home proposes a unique situation as professional lifestyles and personal lifestyles blend. You do not know what is happening behind the scenes of your employees’ lives. Therefore, it is critical to act and lead with empathy and flexibility.

When leading virtual meetings, remember that everyone has a different work situation. For instance, some employees may have a nice, quiet space, ideal for working, while others may need to prepare a meal for their kids first before attending the meeting. As a result, remember to be patient and kind towards all team members. Make it an effort to check in and learn more about their situation and then ask how best to support them. Try incorporating check-ins at the beginning of your virtual meetings to understand the team members’ emotions better even though apart. 

Once leaders understand the different circumstances each of their team members are in, they will adapt meetings to be more effective for everyone. For example, maybe before virtual work meetings were at 9 am, but now half of your workplace has to homeschool their children during that time. Leaders need to be aware of their team’s schedules, so they can make meeting accommodations that benefit the entire team. Not only do leaders need to improve on flexibility, but team members need to as well. It is time to be patient and understanding! If a team member is five minutes late to a meeting, invite them with open arms. Similar to leaders, team members also need to trust that their colleagues are doing their best.   

When leading virtual meetings, be empathetic and flexible. Remember, everyone is not in the same boat, but rather the same storm.

3. Set Rules but Be Open to Change 

As mentioned above, team members may be unfamiliar with virtual meetings; it may even be their first time attending one! To help the team ease into virtual meetings, layout the guidelines in an email and delegate time at the beginning of the meeting as a reminder. Examples of online etiquette for consideration include having cameras on, punctuality, and dress code. Once these norms are established, virtual meetings will become less intimidating as the team members know what to expect. 

In return, leaders should also be open to feedback regarding meeting structure and logistics. Encourage participation whenever possible to keep team members engaged. As team members are participants of the meeting, their opinions should be equally, if not more, valued like their leaders. Cultivate a culture of open communication. After the virtual conversation, discuss (if time allows) or send out a follow-up email requesting their thoughts and feelings on how the meeting went. 

Like acting with empathy, be mindful of how to tailor meetings to best suit employees’ needs. For example, if team members feel that they are experiencing screen fatigue, dedicate a few minutes throughout the session to take a quick stretch break. As a leader, do not be afraid to ask for help from your team members. While operating through times of uncertainty, take this moment to collaborate and learn together; leading effective virtual meetings are a collective effort!  

Benefits of an Effective Virtual Meeting

Leading effective virtual meetings allows people a chance to feel connected, appreciated, and fulfilled at their job. Right now, everyone is struggling to feel genuinely connected to their workplace, and productivity is at the lowest it has ever been. When leaders embrace the importance of connecting their employees, their productivity, innovation, and overall positivity will significantly improve. Emotional intelligence gives leaders the tools to communicate with their employees on a deeper level and run meaningful meetings for everyone in the workplace. 

If interested in learning more about leveraging emotional intelligence to lead remote teams in times of uncertainty, check out either of these workshops, Leading Remote Teams with Emotional Intelligence or Leading Effective Meetings. Also, check out our Virtual EQ Retreat, specifically designed to assess and develop a team’s emotional intelligence through a remote learning platform! 

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