Success in the Virtual Boardroom

Success in the Virtual Boardroom
When you have a remote - or partly remote - team, it's no good to try to replicate your office meetings. Here's how to upgrade them for the virtual world.

If a businessman in 1950 had announced to a boardroom that in 70 years it would be possible to invite people from all over the world to join in their meeting, simply by dialing a number, they would most likely have been laughed out of the company. But today’s virtual boardrooms are no laughing matter. According to Skype.com, the number of minutes spent on Skype calls within its first 10 years was in the trillions. Today’s numbers are even higher.

Skype and other video calling services allow businesses to invite remote team members to participate in important company meetings, usually via video or audio participation. This is great news, for both remote workers who are trying to stay in the loop and for managers who understand the importance of communication with a remote team.

In our previous article, How to Communicate Better With Your Remote Team, we mentioned, “No two businesses will have the same workplace communication system – especially when remote workers are involved. It’s crucial that you find a rhythm that works for you and makes your employees feel comfortable and confident that they understand their tasks, and their voices and needs are heard.”

If you haven’t already considered the importance of quality open communication with your remote team, now is the time to start. And if you’re already tech savvy when it comes to virtual boardrooms, have you ever stopped to consider if your remote members are having success as well? Surprisingly, even with all the virtual tools at our fingertips, we may still be letting down our remote teams. Here’s what to look for and how to avoid it.

Making Assumptions

My grandmother used to have a saying that went something like this: ‘those who assume make a donkey out of themselves’(only she didn’t use the word “donkey.”)

When you’re in the boardroom having a meeting with both physical and virtual employees attending, it can be easy to assume that the remote employees are keeping up. Hurleywrite describes making assumptions as the “most common cause of miscommunication in the workplace. It stems from assuming someone knows what to do, that a particular need is obvious, or that others view a problem the same way you do.”

Make sure everyone, including remote members, understand their tasks before the meeting ends. Acknowledge each member and encourage them to speak up if they feel confused. Having visual cues will help with pinpointing who might be lost. That’s why in our article Why Face to Face Video Is Still the Best Way to Communicate, we focus on the importance of video conferencing.

Shirley Taylor recommends the following six tips to make sure you’re not making assumptions when it comes to communicating with your remote employees:

  1. Be patient
  2. Listen carefully
  3. Take notes (especially if your virtual team is expressing confusion)
  4. Rephrase to ensure clarity
  5. Avoid interruptions
  6. Pause and reflect.

Wesst.org made an extremely good point about assumptions in general when they said, “Humans base all of those assumptions on previous events with similar outcomes.” What’s important to note and apply to virtual boardrooms is the fact that remote teams do not typically function the same as in-house teams. Not only do they require regular communication, they need quality communication.

Virtual Cues

As stated previously, face-to-face communication is key, no matter the setting. Whether it’s sitting in the boardroom or meeting with the principal, body language and eye contact say a lot about what the person is thinking. We devoted an entire article to the importance of body cues even for remote managers called, Body Language: Does It Really Matter To a Remote Manager? In it, we share one of our findings: “Although your remote worker will only see you from the torso up, what your upper body is saying will have a big impact on that person.”

Your own body cues aren’t the only ones you need to be paying attention to. If your remote employees are participating with video conferencing during the boardroom meeting, make sure you pay attention to what they’re saying. Look for signs of distraction (such as lack of eye contact with the speaker or head tilted down or over), and signals that someone isn’t following the conversation.

Make sure each remote member feels comfortable speaking up if they need help. It can be difficult to follow the room’s conversation even with video conferencing. If the remote team is participating with audio only, this makes reading body language impossible. Instead, you will need to listen for audio cues, like sighs or disgruntled noises.

You’ll also need to make sure physically present employees are not speaking over remote ones. One of the hardest things for virtually present employees to do in the boardroom is to get a chance to speak if there’s a lengthy discussion happening. With physical cues, you can let the room know that you’d like to speak by leaning forward or starting to talk. Overcome this by frequently making a point to ask if any remote employees have thoughts. Single someone out of if you think they would have something to contribute.

Success For Everyone

Board meetings and conference calls can be a great way to catch up and it’s a good use of time. In our article, How to Integrate Remote Workers When The Rest Of Your Team is Local, we talk about the importance of checking in with remote members and asking everyone on a friendly level how they’re doing. Stories of success and overcoming challenges can boost morale and help everyone feel a part of the team. However, avoid inside jokes and boardroom only chatter. If a remote member logs on to the chat and is unfamiliar with the conversation, be sure to welcome them and fill them in. It can be easy to only connect with those you physically see and interact with. Make sure everyone, remote and in-house, feels included.

Success in the virtual boardroom is easy to obtain when you follow these guidelines. The main thing is to be aware of how you’re communicating and making sure all members feel like they can contribute. Be sure remote employees get their fair share of talking and contributing. When you see success here, it’ll mean success everywhere.

If your boardroom consists entirely of in-house employees it might be time to expand and recruit remotely! Contact DistantJob today in how to get started.  

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Casey Shull

Casey Shull

Casey Shull is a freelance writer who works with DistantJob to research and synthesise the best remote work related content into practical, accurate and actionable guides and articles on how to improve remote leadership and better manage your teams.