In today’s “hybrid” workplace, where some employees are working remotely, others are in the office and may be switching their locations from home to office on a periodic basis, it may be difficult to re-engage your team. Perhaps it has always been that way or team members don’t know how to engage in this new and different work environment. Perhaps they tried to participate virtually and were unsuccessful, or they simply choose not to. Keep in mind that whatever happened in the past is history.
What you can do is start a conversation to change that behavior.
What to Do to Re-Engage Your Team
Be Frank. Start your next meeting with a frank conversation about how you feel about their engagement. Give them specific observations about their participation at your meetings. While you do this, don’t criticize, question, or make them feel bad about their behavior.
Seek First to Understand. Ask some open-ended questions to understand where they are coming from. For example: “What do you think about what I am saying?” Listen to what they have to say — you might be surprised at what you hear.
Discuss Possible Strategies. Discuss the following strategies for increasing their engagement:
- Volunteer ideas, suggestions, and information willingly and without finality.
- Use a round-robin technique to gain input from all participants – whether they are in the office or working remotely.
- Encourage all team members to be “present” and not multi-task during the meeting.
- Encourage all remote team members to turn their cameras “on” – and keep the gallery view open for the office team to see.
- Seek input from quieter team members. Ask if anyone else has a comment or question.
- Ask for and listen to all points of view.
- Listen to one another without interrupting or completing others’ sentences.
- Make positive remarks about other team members and their contributions.
- Refer to team members by name.
- Break the team into smaller groups and then have the groups report to the larger team.
- Encourage and reinforce new and creative ideas.
- Do not tolerate side-tracking, hidden agendas, or domination.
- Summarize your understanding of what others have said.
Agree on New Ground Rules. As a team, identify the top three strategies to increase your team’s engagement. Add these three strategies to your team ground rules. Reassure them that you want to emphasize these three strategies, and then encourage the behavior.
For the Team Leader: After you have discussed these strategies, let team members know that it is not just your responsibility as “boss” to do all these things…but that it is every team member’s responsibility. As the leader, make the extra effort to “do” the three strategies. Your employees will be looking to you as a role model, and to see if you really want their participation.
Keep in mind, however, that talking is not necessarily a measure of engagement. We all know people who talk a lot and say nothing. Look for opportunities to create an environment where each individual contributes when appropriate.
For more information about how to lead your team in the virtual environment, use these resources.
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF | Master, CSP is a high-stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator. She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years. She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.