This is the third in our blog series focusing on reskilling priorities in this increasingly digitized world. Last week we looked at the critical importance for leaders to create psychological safety.

Today we focus on the massive skill deficit that the current global pandemic has revealed among leaders: Many employees are zoomed out and disengaged from hours of back-to-back meetings that are uninspiring at best, and painfully long and boring at worst.

Leaders need to know how to hold productive and inclusive meetings and conversations via video conference technology to fully engage their people.  Consider these five signs of a productive virtual meeting culture, and ask yourself how well your leaders:

  1. Set clear expectations

Communicate, ahead of time, with everyone about the focus, agenda, expected input and outcomes of the planned meeting.  How should people prepare and what questions can they consider in advance? Be clear on the expectation for having their video camera on, or not.  Allow exceptions for those needing to have children nearby and be explicit and empathetic to those needs.

  1. Create meeting structure

 Creating a common and consistent experience and meeting format creates certainty for participants and allows focus to be on the topic at hand. Have a clear start, a middle and an end. Recap key insights, decisions and progress regularly during meetings to keep everyone up to speed.  Stick to agreed agenda, summarize insights, clarify next steps, and do not run over time.

  1. Foster fairness and inclusivity

 There is nothing worse than sitting in a meeting, when one or two people are dominating the conversation, and no one is doing anything about it. Adopt the skill of respectfully calling upon people and including those who may not have had an opportunity to be heard. Even better, set rules of engagement for meetings at the start, emphasising the importance of equal airtime.

  1. Consistently follow up

 High performance teams hold each other accountable. Learn how to clarify and follow up on actions and responsibilities in the days and weeks following. Impactful leaders know how to do this in simple and non-threatening ways that motivate and engage individual ownership. Acknowledge those who do what they said they would do. This sends a powerful message to the rest of the team.

     5. Allow space to think

Now more than ever before, people need time to reflect, digest and think. Many employees have lost their daily commute, gym time and social meetups with peers.  Loss of this ‘space’ in their day, has resulted in increasing cognitive fatigue, lower knowledge retention and diluted focus because of daily back-to-back meeting marathons. For this reason, Google reduced hourly meetings to 50 mins duration years ago, to allow people space to think and move between meetings on their calendar.

Reskilling leaders so they can focus and motivate people in these five ways will be essential to leading high performance in this new highly digital world.