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Six Ways to Lose Your Virtual Team

In the world of sports, we sometimes hear commentators say that a coach has “lost the locker room” or “lost the team.” Those observations may come after the team underperforms during a losing streak, or, more often, when a coach is fired. The reasons this happens vary among individual teams and coaches, and we rarely hear the full story about what went wrong. Generally, “losing the room” is a more tactful way to say that the players are no longer listening to or respecting what the coach has to say. 

We face a similar challenge in business meetings. Leaders and facilitators can also lose the commitment and participation of their teams when sessions are not run effectively and all members of the group are not fully engaged. As meetings happen in virtual settings rather than face-to-face sessions, it becomes even more difficult to achieve optimal results. These six pitfalls can cause you to lose your team in a virtual setting. 

  • Only using audio. When you rely exclusively on teleconferences, you are unable to see participants’ non-verbals during discussions.  A facilitator who can only rely on what people say or their tone of voice misses out on many important non-verbal communication signals. Adding both video and audio to the meeting helps avoid misunderstandings and improve participation.
  • Talking too much (not listening). Everyone needs to participate to achieve maximum results, so don’t let one or two people (including you) overpower the rest of the team members.  Helping all team members feel heard is a great way to build buy-in and engagement.
  • Not building on what others are saying. This goes hand-in-hand with the prior tip, and often indicates a failure to do a good job of listening to and building upon the contributions of others. People like for their ideas to be recognized, to be heard, and for others to build upon their suggestions. One person might say, “I like pasta.” Then another says, “Me, too, and I have a great lasagna recipe.” Then the first replies, “Let’s hear about your recipe,” and the discussion proceeds. When one person talks at a time, allowing people to share and build on each other’s ideas, they engage more effectively. 
  • Meeting off-line without the full team present. Sometimes this happens inadvertently when two people in another meeting rehash a previous discussion or decision. However, if a few members of a team intentionally take a topic offline for further discussion, the rest of the team can feel left out or excluded. Members may think, “What are they going to talk about that the rest of us cannot be a part of?” or “I thought we were a team.”
  • Not capturing people’s ideas. Often in a virtual setting, you get involved in lengthy conversations where several people are talking. Someone might make a suggestion, but then that suggestion does not appear in the on-screen collaboration workspace. When people see their suggestions and comments in black and white, on the screen, they feel validated and are more motivated to keep contributing ideas.
  • Failing to avoid Zoom fatigue. We’ve all hit the point of Zoom fatigue: the exhaustion, burnout, and stress that accompany spending too much time on virtual communication platforms.  We aren’t alone; all of the people in a virtual meeting have been looking at their screens for hours before this meeting began. We can address this issue by doing things differently in our next Zoom (or WebEx or Microsoft Teams) session. One of the best ways to fight off Zoom fatigue is using virtual collaboration platforms to complement the Zoom experience. One of the unexpected antidotes for avoiding or fighting Zoom fatigue is engaging people using digital tools that mimic in-person collaboration

Don’t “lose your team!” Avoid the six pitfalls highlighted here and you are well on your way to virtual meeting facilitation success.

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