Today, most meetings happen through Zoom, and you can fairly say that there are differences between before and after COVID-19. Same with the common mistakes that happen during these Zoom calls. You probably know them all by heart since you’re facing them so often. Maybe too often.
There is no secret that Zoom meetings are here to stay and shaped an entirely new era of working style. In the meantime, they launched an unexpected challenge for many leaders, especially traditional companies where leadership never had to deal with a remote setting.
It’s easy to understand why we can encounter frequent mistakes that are happening right now inside a Zoom conference or project meeting. Starting from no online etiquette to follow, technical difficulties, “I can’t hear you. Your microphone is muted.”, hearing crunch noises or weird hard to tell noises, to online body language techniques and a different communication style, including how to avoid virtual fatigue - the list goes on.
However, what I want to point out is that the top 3 mistakes I’ll describe in the following are universal, so universal that they infiltrated Zoom as well and add to the other easy to spot mistakes, making meetings even less desirable or efficient.
Even more so, these mistakes are more acutely spotted and felt inside a Zoom meeting where you cannot escape as easily as from an offline meeting. You are under constant scrutiny. Ironic right?
[As a useful side note, Zoom was ready for a crisis and so when the time came everything was already prepared to sustain the immense growth that happened, without crashing the company. But this is worthy of another article.]
Zoom represents a different environment. Take it like a new way to make business. And it’s here to stay.
For the sake of clear exemplification let’s consider each Zoom meeting a project meeting.
No matter how much attention you put into your project as a leader or manager, the real test for you isn't how well your project is going, it's how well the project team is going.
If you hire good people and use sound planning, you're making it a whole lot easier for the team to deliver on your vision. But you need to keep them aligned on a constant basis. Online meetings are no exception.
The number of mistakes that you’ll continue to do can make a big impact on the amount of work the team needs to deliver for you. I recently found myself in a conversation about these mistakes with one of my partners and mentors who works with an executive team.
These are the most common 3 biggest mistakes leaders make in meetings, mostly Zoom calls:
The first thing to realize when you are leading a team is that you are leading a team of people. Sounds like a no-brainer, but in reality, you can see actions that contradict this basic definition. Your job as the leader is to work with those team members to achieve shared goals and understand what is working well, and what isn't.
All too often, the first thing a team leader will do is to assume that the goals that are the organization's mission and purpose are also the goals of a group of people who are collaborating on a project. Leaders set up the goals through a brief before the meeting and then ‘boom’ jump into it, without making sure the team is aligned.
When a team leader assumes that, they put their own agendas first and assume that those team members share the same agenda. The result is usually a breakdown of communication, and a lack of clarity about the goals and the purpose of a team.
Meetings' goal failed.
What you want to do instead is that the team selected for a project knows the WHY and the WHAT and agreed to take its part. The how should be always let on them, in an AGILE environment.
A basic reassurance check at the beginning is a must: Are we aligned with the goal? Is there anything you may want to add before we start our session?
Many times, leaders put such things at the end. This can negate the entire meeting. Imagine a disengaged team member. You do your part, confident that everyone is on board, and then when you check you find out that’s not the case. But it's too late. You just lost that precious time of the meeting. You won’t get what you want.
The second thing that leaders often do is to focus on the wrong things.
They might focus on that which is not going well in a meeting with a team. They might focus on what they think they should have known about a task that was created by a group they do not lead.
In a team meeting, the focus should always be on the task at hand, and the impact it will have on the company (that includes the people), the customer, or the customer's customer.
On the other hand, if you are focused on a one-off problem or issue in a meeting, then that leaves little room for the team to focus on how they will deal with that challenge when they get back to the office.
You always want to include actionable parts with deadlines and responsibilities assigned to specific people. Otherwise, it’s like a watercooler session. Not that this is a bad thing, but at least name it properly and say that "We are here to spend some time together without any actionable."
Because without clear directions, timeframe, and people to be responsible for what’s next, your meeting won’t produce much.
Lastly, it's a leadership mistake to not listen. As a leader, your role is to listen and to take the information and insights gathered in that discussion; then act on them in the direction that will bring the greatest impact for your team.
When a leader makes assumptions based on the last person that talked in a meeting or the last document they read, it's critical that they pay attention to what their team members are saying.
While they should always be mindful of their own agendas, it's critical that the leader of a team listens. The key is to ask questions to ensure that they understand and get on the same page. If you can do this, it will make you a much better manager and a better leader.
Every leader needs to make sure that they listen to their team members, especially those who are experienced, but even more so, with junior team members who might not have as much experience or more of a learning curve.
Do your best to talk last. If a leader presents the entire agenda and gives his opinions it will probably silence the introverted players, the shy personalities, and will fail to produce a potentially creative and productive meeting. It’s almost better just send a paper about what you want without spending the time of an entire group.
You want your team on board with you, but also to be engaged, inspired, motivated, and have the sense of autonomy where what they say counts or at least it’s listened to. You don’t need to agree but always listen.
If you invest in your team by avoiding the above 3 mistakes, you're giving them a different approach to problem-solving. Instead of focusing on the big picture, they are focused on the immediate tasks or challenges that your team is facing.
As a leader, you're enabling your team to make the right decisions when you're not there to provide a directive. You're also giving your team the freedom to make the right decisions. And as a leader, your team needs to feel inspired to work hard, or they won't stay very long.
The best leaders are the ones who invest in their team and make sure that they always have the right resources in place to help them get the job done, especially if the jobs of the future have more challenges that require creativity and an agile mind.
So, if you're guilty of any of the above 3 mistakes in a team meeting, it's time for some leadership self-reflection. Fix the mistakes that you are committing and give your team the tools they need to succeed. Take the lead on doing this.
P.S. Maybe you want to read this also: Why Smart Leaders Of Today Need To Understand And Challenge Negativity In The Workplace If They Want A Bright Future For The Company