Leading Through Zoom Gloom
Over the past few months, leaders and employees appear to be as frustrated by engaging one another on Zoom (and the like) as they are with meeting in person and having to wear a mask. As leaders, this dynamic should give us pause. These frustrations serve no one. They ignore the opportunity inside the challenge of remote work and lack a level of gratitude that we should all be feeling – grateful that we are still here. Complaining about relative inconveniences is an affront to those who have died during this pandemic – 2.54M worldwide and 515K US (as of 3/2/2021) and their families, friends, and colleagues. Reminding ourselves of that fact from time to time might help us appreciate what we are so privileged to enjoy.
The 2008 Financial Crisis
The 2008 financial crisis wasn’t that long ago. If you recall, there was no Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, or several of the other tools business leaders depend on today. Imagine for a moment if the pandemic had struck then. What would we have done without the tools that leaders so readily complain about today? Remember that for many companies in 2020, who were fortunate enough to continue operations with a remote workforce, productivity increased. Do we have challenges? Of course. But given the power of peers, we can keep complaining and dragging ourselves down, or we can change our mindset, access the power of our imagination, and lift each other up.
Common Complaints and Fixes
Here are a few common complaints and fixes that may help you think about today’s situation differently.
- Negative Mindset – As the leader, the more you complain about Zoom calls and the drawbacks of other devices, the more everyone on your team will follow your lead. We would all love for life to return to normal. Until that’s possible, swim with the current. Appreciate what you have and challenge your team to use their creativity and resourcefulness to devise new and exciting ways to engage one another effectively. Operate from a place of gratitude.
- Focus – A common complaint about video calls is that people can’t stay focused. They find it difficult to pay attention. One big culprit here is that people are often sitting in front of multiple monitors, not to mention other devices within view, earshot, and arms-length throughout the entire meeting. Think about going to a conference room and sitting in a meeting with three-six other distractions lined-up in front of you and see if you could focus any better. Doubtful.
- Body Language – Again, consider your line of sight on body language as you sit around a conference room table versus a Zoom call. Unless the participants sit so close to the camera (virtual close talkers) that you can’t see their arms or upper body, I’m not sure what the problem is. Sit far enough away from the screen so that people can see more than your giant head and, as a bonus, they’ll also be able to determine if you are otherwise distracted.
- Time Sitting in Front of a Screen – Long Zoom meetings are challenging, even for those with a positive mindset and employ best practices. What you can control is the length of any given engagement. Here, efficiency matters. Stop having five-hour video meetings. Schedule shorter meetings, and if they need to run longer, take frequent breaks. One way to help keep meetings even more concise in Zoom is to use the reaction buttons. How many meetings have you attended where someone makes a good point, and four other people parrot it in agreement, wasting precious time? A quick “thumbs up” can serve to demonstrate broad support for a great idea without having to suffer through a team’s need to pile on verbally.
- Personal Connection – I’d like to mention one lousy practice and one positive practice that could make a big difference. The lousy practice involves low lighting. Whether someone is backlit or just entirely in the dark, it doesn’t accommodate a strong personal connection. Unlike in-person meetings, you CAN see yourself. If your video looks as if you’ve been taken hostage or assigned to the witness protection program, you might consider improving your lighting. Once you do, a good practice that Vistage Group Chairs (leaders) have been employing is opening Zoom rooms early and keeping them open late. This practice is designed to help members engage one another more informally (even in small groups), replicating a pre and post-meeting situation virtually one would experience in person.
As leaders, especially during this challenging time, it’s never been more critical to identify the opportunity in the adversity and inspire others to see it as well. If we lead with positivity, others will follow. If we operate from a place of gratitude, we can appreciate what we have and cherish that we are here to enjoy it.
Written by Leo Bottary. Have you read?
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