If you’re like me, you’ve been living life in virtual meetings. While I used virtual meeting platforms long before the pandemic, it escalated to new heights during the season of increased remote work. To be honest, I felt bad for those who were suddenly catapulted into this environment. There was no orientation, no slow roll. It was “join this Zoom” and you just had to adjust. What’s more, as a leader, you’re expected to not only adjust, but also master leading teams using these platforms. Well, dang! That’s a lot to expect of leaders while also maintaining productivity.
Since it appears that the virtual setting isn’t going anywhere, I thought I’d offer some tips on platforms that will help you to be successful as a virtual leader.
Video conferencing platform (Zoom, MS Teams, Google Meet, WebEx). These platforms allow you to host virtual meetings. Some offer some really amazing features like closed captions, breakout rooms to allow for smaller team meetings, and polling. You can also share your screen and use the chat feature to text information to the group, and record the meetings. One pro tip: find a platform that works for you and stick to it. Try not to toggle back and forth between different platforms. It can be a bit of cognitive overload for your team to learn how to navigate different platforms, so find one that works for everyone and stick to it.
Virtual whiteboard (Mural, Miro, Google whiteboard): Collaboration became a bit more challenging when we had to shift to working remotely. After all, how were we going to brainstorm and move post-it notes around virtually?
Well, these platforms allow you to do just that. Virtual whiteboards allow you to brainstorm, plan programs, create wireframes, build storyboards, etc. Using these platforms to collaborate has been a game-changer. There is a bit of a learning curve to using it, so I recommend going on YouTube to watch some tutorials to get the hang of things.
Pro tip: create a simple activity on the board that allows your team to practice some basic functions of the platform. For example, have them add three post-its on a section of the board and write their three favorite movies or have them grab icons, emojis, or images that depict what they wanted to be when they grew up. This is a fun team activity and it ensures everyone knows how to grab and write on a post-it and figure out how to add a graphic. Win + win!
Shared document platforms (Google Drive, Microsoft Team, DropBox): One of the beauties of being in person was the ability to collaborate on work together, particularly developing documents with others and getting feedback. In the virtual world, it’s important to continue to find ways to do that.
That’s where shared document platforms come in. This tool allows you to work together virtually on documents, even at the same time. I’ve been able to edit documents that my team created, share agendas and notes, and even jointly crafted a presentation all through the magic of a shared document platform. It’s a must-have for any leader who has some or all of their team working virtually.
As much as we would love to pop by a team members’ office or cubicle to hand over a document that has comments in the margin or sit in a workspace and go back and forth on the design of a presentation, that may not be feasible for the foreseeable future. So, leveraging one of these platforms is the next best thing and can be extremely beneficial to your team’s work going forward.
Task management tool (Asana, Monday.com, Teamwork.com): Who loves a good checklist more than me? Not many. I used to have a checklist on my whiteboard in my office so that my team knew who was responsible for what. I would feel great when I could check something off of our list.
In the virtual world, I learned quickly that I needed to replace that artifact with something that everyone could see. Simply having the checklist hanging in my home office was not going to work. Enter an online task management tool. I have found that leveraging a task management tool has been immensely valuable for me and my team. It allows us to list the tasks we’re working on for projects as well as assign tasks to others. Since meetings are shorter (to manage “Zoom fatigue”), and we aren’t able to drop by each other’s desk to ask each other what we’re working on, gaining visibility on work tasks and status virtually has been vital. As the leader, I’m also clearer on the status of work and can guide things accordingly. It truly has been a game-changer for me.
To be fair, each of these tools has some quirks and a bit of a learning curve to overcome. But when used properly, I found that they increased my team’s productivity and effectiveness. So, take one or two for a spin. After you’ve given them a try, return to the comments and let me know what you think. Oh, and be sure to share any other virtual gems you’ve found to support you as a leader.