Teams do their best work in a culture where people feel they can raise questions, concerns, and ideas without fear of repercussion.
But this psychological safety can be hard to create in virtual meetings, where detecting nonverbal social cues can be difficult and distractions are everywhere.
As a leader and meeting facilitator, the good news is that videoconferencing offers some simple but effective tools to consider using.
Your software probably has a polling function that can give everyone on the team an opportunity to be heard.
You can even make these polls anonymous to help people express their feelings and opinions without fear of being singled out.
Polling is also a great way to add variety into your meeting and increase engagement. Zoom has wonderful short tutorial lessons on how to use this feature.
Similarly, encourage your team to use the chat function if they’re more comfortable contributing nonverbally.
Zooms allows you to save the chat. You can cut and paste the chat notes into your follow up meeting summary.
And think about whether every meeting needs to be a video meeting — a classic conference call may allow for better listening and make people feel less self-conscious.
But if you do choose audio-only, be sure not to interpret silence as agreement.
At the end of your meeting, summarize decisions and action steps to make sure that everyone is on the same page and then send summary notes to the team.
After the meeting, check in with anyone who seemed disengaged or reticent to contribute to find out why and what can be done better so they will speak up.
Virtual meetings are an excellent vehicle to create a culture of psychological safety where everyone feels safe to speak up.
As a leader, consider how you can continuously improve your meeting facilitation skills and practices. You, your team, and your business results will be handsomely rewarded.
You can do it.