Thrive in the Electronic Boardroom

Had a businessperson in 1950 suggested to a boardroom that, in just 70 years’ time, they would be able to bring together individuals from around the world to take part in their conference by simply making a phone call, they would likely have been met with disbelief and ridicule. However, the reality of the modern day is that virtual boardrooms are being used for serious business purposes. According to Skype.com, in its first decade alone, users accumulated an incredible number of minutes for talk time – and the figures are now even more impressive.

The use of Skype and other similar services can be a great benefit for organisations, allowing them to include members of their team who are located remotely in important corporate meetings. This is great news for managers who understand the importance of staying in touch with their remote staff, as well as the remote employees who are keen to stay up to date with developments. With these services, teams can communicate with each other via video or voice, allowing remote members to access information and participate in discussions.

It is essential to create and maintain a regular schedule that allows employees to feel relaxed, to understand that their efforts are valued, and to be sure that their ideas and worries are being heard.

The time to start considering how best to communicate with your remote team is upon us. Even if you are already proficient at hosting virtual meetings, have you ever stopped to consider whether your remote workers are achieving their desired outcomes? Surprisingly, despite the abundance of virtual resources that are available to us, we may still be failing those that work from a distance. Read on to find out what to be aware of and how to prevent it.

The Practice of Guessing

Those who presume create a donkey out of themselves was a phrase of my grandmother’s, though she never really used that term.

It can be easy to assume that when all staff members are physically present in a meeting, remote workers are also following along, but this assumption can lead to misunderstandings. As Hurleywrite states, it is one of the most frequent sources of confusion in the workplace, arising from the belief that other people already understand what needs to be done, that a requirement is obvious, or that everyone perceives an issue in the same manner.

Before concluding the meeting, it is important to ensure that everyone, including those who are not in the same physical location as the rest of the group, understands what they are expected to do. It is important to acknowledge everyone’s contribution and to invite anyone who is unsure of anything to make their questions or concerns known. Those who may be feeling lost can be quickly located if they have access to visual aids. For this reason, the importance of face to face video conferencing is highlighted in our essay ‘Why Face to Face Video Is Still the Best Way to Communicate’.

To avoid assuming anything while interacting with remote staff, Shirley Taylor suggests keeping in mind the following six guidelines.

  1. Wait your turn
  2. Take this in, and hear it attentively
  3. To wit: jot it down (especially if your virtual team is expressing confusion)
  4. Restate for better understanding.
  5. Don’t get sidetracked
  6. Take some time to ponder.

West.org made a very valid point when they commented that “Humans base all of their assumptions on prior experiences that have yielded similar results”. It is important to bear in mind that when conducting online board meetings, remote teams can work differently to those working in an office environment. Consequently, it is essential that both parties communicate frequently and effectively in order to ensure the successful operation of the team.

Indicators in the Digital Realm

It has been previously stated that it does not matter what the context is, face-to-face interaction is always preferable. As evidenced by body language and eye contact, a lot of information can be communicated, whether it is at a business meeting or a conversation with a school principal. In a paper entitled ‘Body Language: Does It Really Matter To a Remote Manager?’, we explored the relevance of body language to remote managers in detail. One of the conclusions we reached was that the upper body gestures of a remote worker can have a significant impact on them, regardless of the fact that they only have a view of a person’s torso.

It is essential to be mindful of both internal and external signals when attending a board meeting, particularly if any of the participants are joining via video conferencing. For this reason, it is important to pay close attention to what the remote workers are saying, as well as being aware of any signs of distraction, such as their head being turned down or away. This will help ensure that everyone is paying attention and engaged in the conversation.

It is essential that all employees who are working remotely have the assurance that they can seek help if they need it. Despite the use of video conferencing, it can be difficult to understand what is being said in the room, as body language indicator cannot be observed. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to other audible cues such as sighs and grumbling, in order to understand the feelings of the other participants.

It is essential to be mindful of situations where those in the physical meeting room may be dominating the conversation, leaving remote workers with little opportunity to contribute. To ensure that all participants have the opportunity to express their views, it is advisable to make a point of asking if any remote workers have any input to offer. If it appears that someone has something to say, it is important to explicitly single them out and afford them the chance to speak.

The Happiness of All

Attending board meetings and taking part in conference calls can be extremely beneficial. Our article, “Integrating Remote Workers,” highlights the importance of enquiring after the wellbeing of remote team members, while the rest of the team is in the same physical location. Sharing success stories and stories of overcoming difficulties can help to boost morale and make team members feel more invested in the group’s objectives. However, it is important to avoid the use of office jargon and in-jokes. When distant members join the conversation, it is essential to ensure they are welcomed and included, as it is common for relationships to be limited to colleagues that you see and talk to on a regular basis. It is important to make sure that everyone – regardless of their location – feels like they are part of the team.

Staying mindful of the following points will guarantee your success in the digital boardroom. The single most essential factor is to be attentive to how you communicate, and to make certain that everyone involved feels that their input is valued. It is important to guarantee that remote workers have the same opportunity to get involved in any conversations. Once you have taken these steps, you will know that you have been successful when your efforts begin to manifest in other areas.

If the members of your boardroom are all based locally, it may be advantageous to expand your team by introducing remote workers. We at Works can help you in this endeavour, so please do not hesitate to contact us and we will provide you with all the necessary information on how to begin.

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