How to Elevate Your Presence in a Virtual Meeting

by Joel Schwartzberg

Even before the COVID-19 crisis started, 5.3% of Americans — more than 8.2 million people — worked from home, according to a 2018 U.S. Census report. And with the outbreak turning more office workers into work-from-home employees, video conferences are becoming more routine for a wide range of business purposes, from staff meetings to brainstorming sessions to major announcements.

But communication tactics that work well among colleagues in a conference room may not translate seamlessly to Brady-Bunch-style quadrants on a computer screen. Organizational behavior professor Andy Molinsky recommends seeing virtual meetings as “an entirely different context, not simply an in-person meeting or a class on a screen.”

Elevating both your point and your presence in a Zoom, Skype, or similar virtual meeting, requires not only engaging in video conference-friendly tactics but also disabusing yourself of potentially detrimental misconceptions about the medium.

To help keep your impact actual when your presence is virtual, consider these six recommendations:

1. Focus on your camera, not your colleagues

Every presentation coach will tell you that direct eye contact is a vital way to reinforce your point. In a video conference, this means looking into the video camera, not at the smiling faces of Marcia, Greg, Cindy, Peter, Jan, and Bobby. Speaking into a cold black circle will not feel natural or comfortable — as humans, we’re trained to look at the people we’re talking to — but know that entertainers and politicians have been doing it for decades.

It’s challenging to focus on your camera for an entire meeting — especially while others are talking — but know that you increase the impact of your points when you look deep into the dot.

Practice looking into your camera during video conferences when you speak, even for brief moments. The more you use it, the more comfortable you’ll become with it.

2. Maintain a strong voice

I always counsel my students and clients to use a louder-than-usual voice because, in addition to being audible, strong voices convey authority, credibility, and confidence. This concept is just as true in virtual conferences as it is in actual ones. So even though you’re using an external or internal microphone and thus may be tempted to speak at a conversational volume, maintain a strong, clear voice as if you’re in a large conference room.

Using a loud voice will also keep you from mumbling and from speaking too quickly due to the amount of breath required.

3. Frame yourself wisely

Proximity plays a big part in how audiences perceive you as a communicator. The farther away or more obscured you appear, the less engaging you will be. In a video conference, your head and the top of your shoulders should dominate the screen.

If your head is cut off at the top or bottom, you’re too close. If your entire torso is in view, you’re too far away. If only half of your head is in sight, please adjust the camera.

Also be mindful of your background. Cluttered rooms make communicators seem disorganized. Distracting elements will pull attention away from you. Find an environment where the background is simple, reflecting your professionalism.

Preparation is critical, so take time before the meeting to pick your location and put your head fully in frame to ensure you’re putting your best face forward.

4. Be present and mindful

In a conventional meeting, participants are typically very mindful of their presence. But in a video conference where you’re muted (and maybe in your pajama pants), it’s easy to forget you’re still being watched. You may be tempted to check your email or attend to other work, but multi-tasking is perilous because you don’t want to be caught unprepared if asked a sudden question.

Even if you don’t need to be fully engaged in the meeting, your professional reputation can suffer if it even looks like you’re not paying attention. So close those other windows, turn your phone upside down, and remember that you’re always “on camera.”

Because you’re less aware of social cues in a virtual meeting, it’s also important to be mindful of how long and how often you speak, if you interrupt other people, and if you make a comment that might offend someone present but out of sight. My advice: Don’t consider yourself “at home.” Consider yourself “at work.” Your behavior may follow.

5. Don’t become your own distraction

In a live meeting, you never have to worry about talking while muted, annoying ambient noise, or the interference of pets and children. But these are all common pitfalls of virtual meetings, and they can quickly sabotage your point. Your job is to make sure you’re remembered for what you did right, not what went wrong, so be mindful of the power you have over both your virtual and physical environments.

Start by training yourself to stay on mute whenever you’re not speaking and unmuting yourself only when you do speak. Staying on mute shuts out sudden noises as well as routine noises you may not be aware of, like the ticking of a wall clock, the clickety-clack of your typing, or even your own breathing. Unmuting yourself obviously enables you to speak, but — perhaps more importantly — saves you from being on the receiving end of the embarrassing colleague chorus, “You’re on mute!”

Make sure to turn off your camera when you’re doing something visually distracting as well, such as moving to another room or eating. (Drinking is not very distracting, but chewing is another story).

Finally, if boisterous children (or pets) want to participate in your call, your colleagues will probably laugh or relate, so don’t be worried about or embarrassed by spontaneous distractions. However, if you’re tasked with giving a major presentation, try to have someone supervise them in another room, far from the temptation of your presence, or at least create an engrossing activity for them. Parenting and presenting cannot happen simultaneously, and truly important messages require not only your colleagues’ full attention, but yours as well.

6. Use the chat window as your partner

Consider the chat window as not just a discussion platform, but a presentational appendage. When you refer to an article or shared document, link to it in the chat. If you run the meeting, put a link to the agenda in the chat. When others are speaking, respond with support or questions in the chat. The chat window is a unique opportunity in virtual meetings to elevate your presence, add dimensions to your ideas, and demonstrate that you’re fully present.

Whether you’ve been participating in virtual meetings for years or just started this month, it’s important to realize that a video conference isn’t just a conference over video — it’s an entirely new interactive experience, which requires adapting your perspective, habits, and tactics to make it work effectively for you.

Source: HBR

To Be a Great Leader, You Need the Right Mindset

by Ryan Gottfredson and Chris Reina

Organizations worldwide spend roughly $356 billion on leadership development efforts. Yet, the BrandonHall Group, a human capital research and analyst firm that surveyed 329 organizations in 2013, found that 75% of the organizations rated their leadership development programs as not very effective. Why aren’t companies getting more bang for their leadership development buck? Our latest research suggests it’s likely because most leadership development efforts overlook a specific attribute that is foundational to how leaders think, learn, and behave: their mindsets.

Mindsets are leaders’ mental lenses that dictate what information they take in and use to make sense of and navigate the situations they encounter. Simply, mindsets drive what leaders do and why. For example, they explain why two different leaders might encounter the same situation (e.g., a subordinate disagreement) and process and respond to it very differently. One leader might see the situation as a threat that hinders their authority; another as an opportunity to learn and further develop. When leadership development efforts ignore mindsets, they ignore how leaders see and interpret problems and opportunities like this one.

You may wonder: if mindsets are so important, which ones should you help your leaders develop? In our recent work, we broadly scoured research across the social sciences to understand the various mindsets that individuals may possess. In doing so, we identified four distinct sets of mindsets that have been found to affect leaders’ ability to engage with others, navigate change more successfully, and perform in their leadership roles more effectively.

Growth and Fixed Mindsets. A growth mindset is a belief that people, including oneself, can change their talents, abilities, and intelligence. Conversely, those with a fixed mindset do not believe that people can change their talents abilities and intelligence. Decades of research have found that those with a growth mindset are more mentally primed to approach and take on challenges, take advantage of feedback, adopt the most effective problem-solving strategies, provide developmental feedback to subordinates, and be effortful and persistent in seeking to accomplish goals.

Learning and Performance Mindsets. A learning mindset involves being motivated toward increasing one’s competence and mastering something new. A performance mindset involves being motivated toward gaining favorable judgements (or avoiding negative judgements) about one’s competence. Leaders with a learning mindset, compared to those with a performance mindset, are more mentally primed to increase their competence, engage in deep-level learning strategies, seek out feedback, and exert more of an effort. They are also persistent, adaptable, willing to cooperate, and tend to perform at a higher level.

Deliberative and Implemental Mindsets. Leaders with a deliberative mindset have a heightened receptiveness to all kinds of information as a way to ensure that they think and act as optimally as possible. Leaders with an implemental mindset, as the name suggests, are more focused on implementing decisions, which closes them off to new and different ideas and information. Comparing the two, leaders with deliberative mindsets tend to make better decisions because they are more impartial, more accurate, and less biased in their processing and decision making.

Promotion and Prevention Mindsets. Leaders with a promotion mindset are focused on winning and gains. They identify a specific purpose, goal, or destination and prioritize making progress toward it. Leaders with a prevention mindset, however, are focused on avoiding losses and preventing problems at all costs. Research has found that those with a promotion mindset are more prone to positive thinking, more open to change, more likely to persist despite challenges and setbacks, and demonstrate higher levels of task performance and innovative behaviors compared to leaders with a prevention mindset.

Once you have a better understanding of these mindsets, you can tailor your leadership training programs to unlock most effective ones in your managers. A great example of an organization that leveraged the power of mindsets in this way is Microsoft. From 2001-2014, Microsoft’s market capitalization and stock price largely stayed the same. But, in 2014, when Satya Nadella took over, he made it his mission to revamp the leadership and the culture at Microsoft. In his book, Hit Refresh, Nadella explains that mindsets– particularly growth mindsets– were his primary focus when revamping Microsoft. With this leadership, the company’s market capitalization and stock price has more than tripled.

This is just one example that shows that if organizations want their investment in leadership development to more fully pay off, it is essential that they prioritize mindset development — specifically by targeting growth, learning, deliberative, and promotion mindsets. As leaders cultivate each, their thinking, learning, and behaviors will naturally improve because they are seeing and interpreting their situations more effectively.

Source: HBR

How Do You Know If You Have The Right Talent To Be Positioned For Success?

by Larry Janis

Having the right talent in the right roles is essential for a successful business strategy. Strategy execution demands a thorough evaluation of not only people, but also of their roles and responsibilities, their impact and their alignment with the company’s business goals.

Corporate leadership and business leaders focused on strategy execution need a talent assessment program that functions as an extension of their strategy planning that addresses the following thoughts and processes:

  • An understanding of the talent implications associated with the strategy. Without this context, talent reviews may provide a false sense of security and lead to misaligned, well intended talent plans that actually work against the strategy.
  • Differentiation between important and critical roles. The successful execution of strategy requires talented people, more importantly talented people in the right roles. Without clear differentiation the people most likely to positively impact strategy may be in the wrong roles or not in the organization at all!
  • A facilitated talent discussion that evaluates talent in an integrated manner; standardizes the organizations’ talent “language” and calibrates talent between divisions, departments and teams.
  • A talent map that summarizes the organization’s talent “picture” in a simple, powerful format. The talent map can be easily referenced for future planned, or unplanned talent decisions.
  • A talent plan that captures the key talent actions required to support the strategy; assigns accountability for completion; encourages all leaders to accept responsibility for the organization talent pool; and provides a mechanism for tracking progress.
  • A partnership with an external recruitment firm that has a solid knowledge of your industry, your competitors and has the ability to react in a timely fashion to acquire the talent you have defined as essential to your business goals.

When planning changes to your staff, consider the following timing considerations:

  • Bringing in someone from the outside to fill a role lacking the talent required for a business initiative would typically takes four to six months.
  • Add in the time for onboarding, learning how your firm does things and understanding the capabilities of your firm: your talent acquisition time frame may extend upwards of one year for your new hire to be fully engaged and productive.
  • If your company operates in a competitive industry, factor in additional time to work through thinned out talent pool: your key competitors are likely seeking the talent they need to drive their businesses to the next level.

Talent processes linked to business strategies offer a considerable competitive advantage. Streamlining the implementation of the timeline, understanding the talent implications of your strategy and recognizing the talents you have and don’t have are critical to successful strategy implementation and differentiating your organization from the competition.

 

 

 

WHAT IS TOP TALENT AND HOW IS THAT IDENTIFIED?

As a part of our talent acquisition engagements, we ask our clients how they define “top talent” and how they would assess those traits in the interview process. Reflecting on the insightful comments we hear every day, we thought there would be great value in a new blog in which senior executives/thought leaders share their “Take on Talent.”

This is the twenty-second in a series of blogs/interviews with senior executives who are thought leaders in the areas of Talent Acquisition, Career Development and Leadership who will share their perspectives on this ever present question.

 

Kevin Campbell, Chief Executive Officer, Syniti

As CEO, Kevin drives the growth agenda of Syniti with poise and at ease. With a solid track record in driving growth at scale, Kevin joined Syniti, formerly BackOffice Associates, as president, global consulting and services April 2018, and was named as CEO in February 2019.

During his 20+ year, 2-term tenure at Accenture, he was Group Chief Executive for Outsourcing and Group Chief Executive Technology where he drove double-digit growth. Kevin was also CO-COO for Bridgewater Associates and COO for Oscar Health based out of New York.

As CEO, Kevin’s leadership remit here is simple: Inspire and empower those around him to deliver on the business’ vision and purpose. He oversees all aspects of our operation while also taking every opportunity to engage with customers, partners, and employees on the ground around the world.

At home and in relaxed mode, Kevin devotes himself to family life and the resulting bike rides and activities that come with such a commitment. He also coaches his children’s sports teams and can often be found at various sports fields hurling encouragement. This has even been turned in to a group activity when they attend Atlanta United FC as season ticket holders. Go five stripes! Continue reading

Leadership assessment: Do men and women influence differently?

By Darleen DeRosa

Do men and women lead differently in the workplace? Based on much of the research, the short answer is “yes.” Although the gender leadership differences often align with the stereotype that women lead with a more interpersonal style and men with a more task-oriented style, it appears that gender does play a role in leadership style and preferences.

Because a leader’s success often depends upon their ability to gain the support and cooperation of people who frequently have competing priorities or conflicting goals, OnPoint Consulting wanted to understand what gender differences, if any, exist in how leaders use influence. To help answer this question, we used a 360° feedback questionnaire to collect data on the influencing skills of 223 leaders (116 men and 107 women) across organizations and industries.

While the data pointed to some significant differences in the approaches men and women use to gain others’ buy-in and support, we also uncovered some surprising similarities. The following is a summary of our findings.

Most Effective Influence Tactics
Our previous research on influence identified 11 influencing tactics used by the most effective managers. We then grouped these tactics according to their effectiveness in gaining others’ support and commitment—most effective, moderately effective, and least effective tactics. The four tactics that are most effective in gaining commitment from others are: Continue reading