Finding the courage to speak up is critical to your success and your team's success, as collective decisions are driven by the diversity of your experiences and expertise. To be more productive in your next virtual meetings, shift your mindset from:

  • "My idea is not complete" to " It could be the source of someone else's breakthrough."
  • "It's probably not my place to speak up" to "Silence is not in the interest of the team."
  • "I want to sound intelligent" to "This is about the collective intelligence of my team."
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Young or inexperienced people are often reluctant to share ideas because they are not in a position to do so.
Shift your mindset: Never underestimate the value your perspective brings to the table. If you remain silent, you are effectively choosing not to help the company.

  • Ensure your idea is relevant to the group, not just one individual.
  • Offer an alternative solution if you plan to disagree.
  • Aim to strengthen the discussion.

Research on collective intelligence shows that participation increases collective intelligence and the decision-making quality of the team.

Shift your mindset:Think of your next virtual meeting as a puzzle where each team member holds unique pieces to that puzzle. Holding back your expertise and experiences, regardless of size or importance, may leave the puzzle incomplete. The purpose of speaking up in a meeting is not to stand out but to contribute to on-topic information.

Difficulty speaking up during virtual meetings

We all struggle to speak up at times for many reasons:

  • It's harder to read physical and social cues onscreen and even impossible on a big team.
  • If you're a junior employee or still new to the company, you may feel reserved around your teammates.
  • You may feel your ideas are still half-baked and won't be seen as valuable.
  • You may feel someone more experienced may take your suggestions as personal critiques.

However, if you stay silent, the quality of collective decisions may suffer.

  • Prepare your nudge: Think of one on-topic question you want to see answered during the meeting and write it down. Even if you get "cold-called", you have at least one thoughtful question.
  • Rehearse your introduction: Don't say: "Hi, I'm Haruto, and I'm happy to be here." Say, "Hi, I'm Haruto. Thank you for inviting me. I look forward to sharing my initial thoughts on ..."
  • Use the chat function to make yourself "seen."
  • Find your window: Unmute yourself and share your idea when someone deliberately pauses.
  • Raise your hand: Try using emojis to draw attention.

Employees may refrain from speaking up because they:

  • Fear being ostracised
  • Don't want to be embarrassed
  • Want to avoid negative remarks
  • Feel like speaking up is inappropriate

They may decide to hold back an idea that is not thought out thoroughly. Shift your mindset: Your half-baked idea could be the first step in a team breakthrough. Speaking up may help your team advance from idea to execution.

  1. Create a phonetic recalling word or object that is memorable, associating it with the name so that the correct pronunciation is easily verbalized (like Ruchika is pronounced ‘roo-chee-ka’, as your ‘cheek’)
  2. Interrupt and correct people, giving your name the importance it deserves.
  • Having a non-white name that is hard to pronounce or remember can negatively impact our chances of employment in many western countries, and the screening starts at the resume itself.
  • Mispronunciation of a name also results in an ‘internal cringe’ when it is heard by the namesake, resulting in needless doubt and uncertainty professionally.
  • Even kids with names being mispronounced get affected emotionally, and score lower than others.
  1. Ask the person to pronounce it and listen attentively.
  2. Don’t make it obvious that the name is unheard of, unpronounceable, or awkward to pronounce.
  3. Observe how the name is pronounced, clarify it again and practice it a few times.
  4. If the name has been mispronounced by you, apologize and make amends.
  5. Correct it for others who are also pronouncing it wrong, even if the namesake person isn’t around.
  6. Don’t ask if the person can be called by any other name, as it shows arrogance.

It is common courtesy to spell out or pronounce the name of a colleague correctly. However, many people with non-generic or non-western names face a problem of their name not being registered in the right way in other people's minds.

This results in a less inclusive workplace, both physical or virtual, for people who are from diverse backgrounds.

Remote workers should be working in harmony, but people often don't know what others are doing and how everything fits together.

  • Create formal processes that simulate the informal way; for example, stopping by a colleague's desk or eating lunch together. These interactions serve as course corrections.
  • Managers should clearly articulate the mission, assign roles and responsibilities, create detailed project plans, establish performance metrics. They should also document all that and make it available offsite.
  • Managers should model and enforce the processes until they are completely incorporated.

Remote workers who rarely meet with their teammates face to face tend to focus on tasks and ignore the team. A culture is vital to foster engagement and sustain performance over the long term.

Establish trust. Affective trust (based on feeling) is tricky to build virtually.

  • You may need to bring team members together for short periods.
  • Rituals, such as #toasts feed the culture and provide recognition for employees. Otherwise, schedule regular informal calls as a group or one-on-one.

It can be difficult to explain complex ideas. The lack of face-to-face interaction limits social cues, which may lead to misunderstandings and conflict.

  • To avoid miscues and misinterpretation, match the message with the medium. Videoconferencing is the next best tool to talking face-to-face. Small, non-urgent requests are best suited to e-mail, instant messaging, or all-in-one platforms like Slack.
  • Frequency of communication matters. Provide regular updates, respond to messages promptly, be available at important times.
Why some companies fail at remote work

Companies that fail at remote work focus too much on technology and too little on the process. Successful remote work is based on clear processes that support three core principles.

  • Communication: The ability to exchange information.
  • Coordination: The ability to work toward a common goal.
  • Culture: A shared set of customs that foster trust and engagement.

Five people in a room sitting for a one-hour meeting are spending a total of five hours of productive time. Real-time communication, physical or virtual meetings can be avoided most of the time.

Meetings should be the last resort, and writing comes to the rescue. Most meetings can be avoided by asynchronous communication on Slack, but if the threads are too long, and the decision is not in sight, it’s a signal that a meeting is required.

Many extroverts had a gala time in physical meetings, as their social interactions and energy kept them at the centre of attention. The quiet introverts, who might be great at implementing the ideas bounced on the table, were sidelined.

Remote work and the focus on the written word is the introvert's revenge, as now the scales are balanced towards merit and real results.

People can take time to examine the problem or issue, and provide their input, something which isn’t possible in meetings.

Writing forces individuals and teams to think clearly and participate in a productive discussion. Writing also invites people to rectify mistakes, and point out gaps in the idea. Added opinions, suggestions and corrections are a good thing for the project or the main idea.

  1. Get to the point quickly.
  2. Write as if explaining to a newbie or someone who doesn’t know what you do.
  3. If you are using acronyms, spell them out.
  4. Focus on the key idea at all times, from start to finish. Also add a summary and next action point to move forward.
  5. Provide options to invite engagement, like by using a poll.
  6. Do not use a passive voice.
  7. Shorter sentences work extremely well, but can turn monotonous. Use varied sentence lengths, but keep the format simple.
  8. No rambling.
Communication In a Remote Setup: The Importance of Writing

Writing is increasingly important now as remote work has gone mainstream.

Be it Email, Slack, or Notion, all remote work is communicated with the help of writing. Writing helps save time by summarizing points in black and white to facilitate asynchronous communication, something of a mainstay in global organizations.

The groups we identify with provide a sense of identity and belonging. Once we have identified our place in the group, we are motivated to enhance the status of this group. Patriotism is a form of identity.

Scientists explain that the instincts that drive patriotism can express humanity’s best and worst sides.

In an experiment, subjects consistently discriminated against those in other groups and acted in ways that benefited their own groups.

The feeling that the benefits of the group are beneficial to the individual is innate.

One common characteristic of a group is that emotions appear to be contagious. A shared emotional experience occurs when one person feels a similar emotion to another due to perceiving the other's state. Conversely, xenophobia can be attributed to a dissimilarity in perception that creates an empathy gap.

  • Patriotism is "ingroup love." An individual will sacrifice out of love for the greater good.
  • Nationalism is about "outgroup hate." We are better than people that are not like us.

Very few people will go out of their way to try to harm an outgroup. However, if we perceive an outside group as an active threat, it is possible for ingroup love to change into outgroup hate.

A group has an existence that extends beyond the life of any of its individual members. A sense of weakness and anxiety lead us to depend on the group. Once you feel part of a group, you are less afraid.

There is a connection between the need for closure and group identification, including patriotism. When you are uncertain about yourself, you seek certainty, and that certainty is provided by the group ideology that tells you who you are. However, if you are successful as an individual, you feel less dependent on the group.

Feeling united

Patriotism is an inborn human sentiment and part of a subconscious drive toward group bonding and allegiance. According to some recent studies, patriotism is in our genes.

But this allegiance is not always a warm feeling of connection. Sometimes the bond with a group serves as a powerful wedge to single out those who are different. Sometimes what makes us feel connected is not a love of country but a common enemy.

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