In our new remote-work reality, almost everyone is having to adapt their habits to maintain a sense of normalcy. But given what we know about the science of exclusion, is it possible that inclusion could be taking a backseat to execution?

Research shows that inclusion is critical to keeping employees engaged, teams collaborative, and organizations innovative—all critical components of business health in a volatile climate. And yet, when crisis hits and our sense of threat rises, we tend to default to our familiar biases. Read: We may become overly goal-focused and forget to include others.

Here are eight tips from NLI Master Facilitators Jon Martin and Matt Summers on ways you can make your virtual meetings more inclusive, split between meeting logistics and specific behaviors as the leader.

Meeting Logistics

  • Turn on your video, and encourage everyone to do so if they are able to. This builds relatedness and connections and helps mitigate distance bias.
  • Start with a ‘human’ check-in and show genuine warmth. Keeping people at arm’s length feels formal. When virtual, pull your sliding scale of social distancing in closer.
  • Provide certainty. Share your intent before asking for input. Let the attendees know they are important and you will interact with everyone regularly throughout the meeting.
  • If possible, share the agenda ahead of time so those who want to can prepare if needed. If there is a big decision to be made, allow people to think about it before the meeting. And pay attention to the volume of agenda items—consider quality vs. quantity.

Leadership Behaviors

  • Adopt the mindset of inclusion. Plan on hearing from everyone, not just the most outspoken. See the attendees as a source of learning instead of competition or threat.
  • As the meeting leader, lower your status a bit to encourage more participation. Ask questions more than you give instructions. Provide choices to give a sense of autonomy. Give your opinion after others have shared theirs.
  • Don’t cut people off. Let them finish their thought. It can be hard to do, especially in a virtual environment, but coming in over the top of them says you don’t care enough to listen. If someone is taking more time than expected, when they take a breath say something like, “We will need to move on so the next person can share.”
  • Build psychological safety. Allow space for people to think out loud and create habits for sharing mistakes. Also, make people feel valued even if their answer isn’t what you were expecting. Respond with a genuine positive remark like, “Wow, that’s an interesting connection,” and show curiosity by asking for more info. Remember, how you handle these situations determines if people will contribute to the rest of the meeting.

Focusing on being inclusive in virtual meetings can have a real impact on team cohesion, innovation, and engagement. Following these simple tips and above all, valuing each participant and their input, helps everyone thrive in challenging times.

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