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People want engagement and focus in their meetings

However, meetings are often frustrating. Most of the time, the same people who do all the talking. They often derail the meeting and make it take longer than planned.

Similarly, it's always the same people who are quiet, and there is a concern that the lack of engagement will affect good team commitments.

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  • C - Captain. Every ship (every meeting) needs a captain to get it safely to its destination at an appointed time.
  • O - Outcome. We need to know where we're going, so it's important to articulate the desired outcome of your meeting in the invitation.
  • P - Process. We need to know how we're going to get to the destination. This takes planning. If the outcome is a decision, we need to ask how to reach that decision, e.g. vote, consensus, etc.
  • E - Equity (an equal opportunity to speak).

Imagine you're in a meeting when some colleagues start having a side conversation that dominates the meeting.

  • First, listen. Wait for an opening.
  • Then step in and validate. Ask a question to break the momentum of their conversation. For example, "Can I ask you a question?" followed by "That all sounds very interesting."
  • Now redirect by asking, "Can you help me understand how what you're saying relates to the topic on our agenda?" This can help bring them back to the objective of the meeting.

We tolerate meetings that don't stay on track because we tell ourselves there is nothing we can do - that we can't interrupt because it would be rude. We also worry that we might be rejected, so we sit through long meetings.

Elon Musk once wrote an email to his staff saying that they should walk out of a meeting if it's evident that they aren't adding value. It's rude to make someone stay and waste time.

Givers and takers

Employees can decide whether to act like givers or takers.

  • When they act like givers, they contribute without looking for anything in turn, such as offering assistance, sharing knowledge, or making valuable introductions.
  • When they act as takers, they try to get other people to serve their ends while hoarding their expertise and time.

Studies found a strong link between employee giving and desirable business outcomes, such as higher profitability, productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction.

Leaders recognise the importance of generous behaviour and desire more of it. But workers receive mixed messages about being generous. In promotion decisions, only one person advances. Productivity could also suffer. In competitive bonus pools, more money to the top performers means less for the rest. This leads employees to undercut rather than support their colleagues' efforts.

It creates a challenge of how to promote generosity without cutting into productivity and reducing fairness.

A challenge for managers is how to protect already-generous people from giving too much of their attention that could slow down their productivity and limiting selfish coworkers who feel they have a license to treat good people like doormats.

A solution involves helping givers act on their generous impulses more productively. Employees need a better understanding of what generosity is and learn to distinguish it from timidity, availability, and empathy.

Givers are often timid because acting in others' interest can make it difficult to assert your own.

Managers can help givers to separate timidity from generosity. They can teach givers to shift their frame of reference to advocate for others using relational accounts. Ask employees to think of others who share their interests and then make a verbal commitment to help that person. Being tough when representing other's interests will help their self-image as givers.

Givers are inclined to accommodate all the requests for help - neglecting their own responsibilities while being at the mercy of takers.

  • Instead of accommodating every request for help, givers need to set up boundaries. Set aside windows of quiet time during which you can focus on deep work.
  • Ask managers for support to help mentor juniors.
  • When dealing with takers, givers can help only if takers will pay it forward.

Empathy is a trap givers need to avoid. A busy person moved to empathy can spend too much time doing favours they cannot afford.

Managers can teach givers to be perspective takers, not just emphasisers. Instead of trying to imagine what other people are feeling, try to imagine what they are thinking and what their interests are. Givers should gather and use knowledge about other's interests and let a counterpart win on issues that matter less so they can win on issues they value most.

Givers can be categorised into groups. None of these behaviours is necessary for generosity.

  • Some are hesitant to advocate for their own interests.
  • Some are willing to drop everything to help anyone at any time
  • Some are easily manipulated by empathy.

Teaching employees about the power of agency, boundaries on accessibility, and perspective-taking will:

  • save your best employees,
  • enable employees to contribute more to others and the success of the company,
  • create a culture of generosity that will attract more givers to your organisation.
Companies need some form of cohesion

During the pandemic and the switch to working from home, companies need ways to keep their teams focused and maintain a sense of togetherness.

But in most cases, virtual team building feels more agonising than the real thing. It is also inherently flawed.

Effective team building contains two things:

  • A change of scenery, which makes the activity seem like a break from the normal day.
  • A demonstration that your employer really cares about your wellbeing.

Virtual team-building fails at both because it is nearly impossible to provide specialized attention on a group video call. And if you're attending a team-building video chat from your home office, it won't feel like a change of environment.

It's much harder to achieve the same level of bonding when you're not physically together.

Research shows that teams who experience mutual hardships strengthen connections, such as struggling through bad weather together.

One school of thought is that the entire concept of team building is flawed, not just that of virtual team building.

Participating in team-building exercises won't usually help. The political and complex nature of the workplace means that people will return to their normal way of behaving.

The challenge with online team-building is to simulate the physical experiences of a team-building day trip.

Although online activities fall short, they can work as long as businesses feel like they're fulfilling their goals and the events feel really enjoyable.

Connectional intelligence

The ability to drive innovation and breakthrough results by tackling the power of relationships and networks.

It recognizes that leaps in creativity and progress cannot be achieved in solitude. They require forming relationships, wielding influence well, and sharing a vision so compelling that others adopt it as their own.

Trust in the age of remote work

Different industries may face different challenges when they have to manage staff remotely. However, they all share one element that is crucial: trust.

A lack of trust can undo a team. Managers may doubt that their reports are actually working. This can lead to the expectation that employees are always available, creating stress and disrupting employees' work-life balance. The secret in learning to trust remote employees is ensuring good communication.

  • The simplest way to ensure employees are meeting expectations is to articulate your expectations.
  • Rather than assuming everyone is available, establish the frequency and ideal timing for communication.
  • Determine the best time and means of reaching you during the workday.
  • Daily check-in calls can be helpful to stay up-to-date with what everyone is working on.

Once you've set expectations, stick to them so your team will know what to expect.

In the office, employees are given the tools they need to do their jobs. The same should apply when they work remote. They should have access to the right materials, equipment, and information.

Recreating an office setting also means offering several methods of communication, such as video conferencing.

With employees out of sight, it's essential to address issues promptly.

One good approach is to lead with appreciation. Harsh feedback will likely lead team members to react defensively, rather than taking your comments as constructive. A study found 57% of employees prefer corrective feedback to praise or recognition. Video is also better than a voice call, where body language and facial expressions are lost.

Loneliness is one of the most challenging aspects of working remotely, even among introverts.

Managers should find ways for employees to feel socially connected. For example, leaving open discussion time during meetings or creating fun Slack channels for small talk.

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