VIRTUAL LEADERSHIP: The Four 'P's of Online Meetings

    By Peter Montoya, with Wade Shows

    In the last couple of weeks, leaders around the globe have been tasked with quickly finding creative solutions to protect their workforce and ensure continuity. This means many teams are now working from home – and many leaders are venturing out of physical meeting rooms and into cyberspace for the first time.

    Virtual meetings are now the primary connective element for many organizations. But as I’ve said in countless leadership workshops over the years – effective meetings don’t happen by chance. As a leader, you bear responsibility for the outcome of these meetings, so it is imperative that you learn to properly prepare for and conduct them.

    Wade Shows, of Crucible Coaching and Consulting, is a master of the virtual meeting. He speaks to exactly this topic in his Alchemy of Meetings, pointing out that while they represent a significant investment in both time and money, those investments are often squandered.

    To make the best possible use of virtual meeting time, Shows suggests that leaders focus on the ‘four Ps’…

    • People – Too often, as leaders, we become so hyper-focused on meeting content or a desired outcome that we fail to think first of our people. Who will be involved? Why is this a good use of their time? What will they contribute? It’s critical to think of attendees as engaged participants, rather than merely a compliant audience. If you’re just planning to talk at them, it’s probably a classic case of “this could have been an email”. (Avoid those at all costs if you want to keep morale high!)
    • Preparation – In order to make the best use of everyone’s time, effectively facilitate, and ensure a successful outcome, Shows recommends that you commit at least one minute of preparation time for every one minute of meeting time (or, preferably, two). If this sounds excessive, there’s a good chance your meetings to date haven’t been nearly as meaningful or productive as they could have been. Most (if not all) of us can recall a meeting in which something was discussed at length, yet no action was taken. How many meetings have you been forced to revisit or repeat as a result? Preparation is your best defense against ineffective meetings. It’s far better for you to spend that hour now, rather than repeat the hour later, multiplied by the number of attendees.
    • Practice – These are the real-world to-dos, tools, and procedures that keep people engaged, present, and accountable. For example: Because the degree of engagement increases exponentially when team members are face-to-face, webcams are almost non-negotiable, according to Shows. Another key technique is to address every attendee, by name, ask them specific questions, and/or give them dedicated time to comment. And because real, meaningful conversations are difficult to maintain in larger groups, consider using breakout sessions for meetings with more than 7-10 attendees.
    • Pursuance – How will you maintain team commitment to action items between meetings? How will you ensure everyone not only understands their action items but agrees to their viability and timeline? Remember, someone’s “yes” means nothing if they’re not given the opportunity to say “no”. Be sure to factor in enough meeting time to allow for questions, comments, and clarification.

    Think of your virtual meetings as a concert – and yourself as the conductor. You wouldn’t just blindly gather musicians in a room and tell them to start playing. You would carefully orchestrate the process. You would let everyone know, in advance, what piece of music you hope to create and what part you’d like them to play. You’d make sure everyone had the instruments they needed, and carefully conduct the process to ensure a harmonious result.

    Teams thrive when everyone feels they are valued contributors to a meaningful outcome. “It’s not just about the hard cost of participants’ paid time,” Shows points out, “It’s also about the soft costs – which include team trust, engagement, commitment, and morale. All of these hinge on how well you plan for and lead your online meetings.”

    And the good news is, the muscles you build designing and leading online meetings will significantly improve your in-person meetings as well. So you’ve got that going for you. Which is nice...

    Peter Montoya is the best-selling author of “The Brand Called You” and his latest book, “Leadership Power”. He’s also a sought-after, highly motivational keynote speaker and leadership development strategist, specializing in cultivating high-performance teams. Peter is available for interviews by visiting www.PeterMontoya.com, or calling (949) 334-7070.

    Wade Shows is an executive coach, organizational consultant and group process facilitator, and the founder of Crucible Coaching & Consulting. With over twenty years of experience in executive leadership, Wade helps teams improve collaboration, and empowers organizations and leaders to find greater clarity, alignment, and commitment to their shared purpose. For more information, contact him at dwadeshows@cruciblecoachingconsulting.com or calling at 925.817.9778.


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