Left Out

Steve Polo

Connected or Left Out?

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I belong to a group that gets together monthly to discuss business leadership issues, situations and ideas – and, as it turns out, we all face many of the same operational challenges as well. The idea of this group was borne out of the desire of local leaders to tap new resources, solve problems, and to learn techniques to make us better leaders.

In a way, our specific Vistage group is like a small company. While we don’t have a specific product or service, per se, we do have many of the attributes of a business: our own ‘hiring criteria,’ our own values and culture, and our specific commitment to helping each other.  As such, we have an opportunity to see how various concepts will be received by our group, and how they might be adjusted, improved or abandoned, and applied to our individual companies.

In the last year and a half, our group, like most companies, have met virtually via Zoom. And despite the tedium that sometimes accompanies these sessions (and our longing for each others’ company), it had been a successful transition. Recently, however, things changed. And not for the better.

Here’s what happened – we had planned this meeting to be our first in-person gathering, but with the advent of the delta variant, at least half of us opted for a virtual meeting.

As a part of the virtual contingent, I thought there would be challenges mixing in-person and virtual, but it wouldn’t be a big deal. Boy, was I wrong: the meeting made me feel differently.

While on Zoom, everyone is visible, but in this ‘hybrid’ meeting, the virtual folks could only see one of the in-person attendees at a time. People were hard to hear. We missed the sight gags, the small nuanced movements, and high-fives of our in-person counterparts.  We also didn’t get to be a part of the ‘goodbye’ - handshakes and hugs - as the meeting ended.

When the meeting was over, I had an overwhelming sense that I had missed something significant, that those of us that attended virtually were just observers, and even felt left out.

None of this was intentional in any way – but as a group of business leaders, we learned an incredibly valuable lesson. When we return to the office (if we do so differentially) we are likely to have in-person and virtual employees facing similar circumstances. How do we want them to all feel? Connected or left out?

If you haven’t done so already, I urge you to begin the hard and very important work of developing guidelines and behaviors that will keep your people connected.

Here are some ideas we’re working on:

  • Ask people in your company what works (and what doesn’t). Then act on it.
  • Fix. Your. Technology. Make sure your technology allows for everyone to see, hear, and interact with each other. Research the new technology that is evolving the virtual meeting. New generations won't put up with half-baked tech, either.
  • Challenge your young leadership to devise a plan about who comes in and when, and how to connect them.  It will be valuable leadership training, and likely give you a plan that works for everyone.
  • Ask how your people are feeling after these meetings. Then see the first idea again.

 We’re all still figuring out the so-called hybrid workplace. I’d love to hear your ideas for this experiment!

 

Staying connected,

Steve

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