Tips for Leadership In A Virtual World: Question 4 of 4
How important is leadership in a virtual world? With the rise of virtual teams and virtual teams project management, I have had the opportunity over the past two years to run numerous webinars for professional groups and organizations on issues related to leadership in a virtual world. Last month I conducted a webcast for AMA titled How to Effectively Lead Virtual Team Meetings which focused on successful practices for leading virtual meetings with full participant engagement.
Attendees asked many interesting questions, which I believe are relevant to many of you. Therefore, I dedicated September’s posts to answering selected questions asked by participants on this topic. Please click here to read the three prior questions and my comments. This fourth blog post on the topic focuses on handling challenging personalities during meetings, and concludes with what I call my ‘golden rule’ of cross cultural collaboration.
Question: Dealing with Dominant Personalities During Virtual Meetings
“A few individuals do most of the talking during the virtual meeting, which crowds out others or discourages them. How do I handle dominant personalities that wish to either take over the discussion or override others’ ideas?”
Answer: If you don’t want one person to dominate, it’s up to you to monitor who is actively participating, and to (1) intervene when one person hogs air time and (2) engage everyone in the discussion, even if some participants say very little. As soon as you believe someone is dominating the discussion intervene immediately. For example, say, “Thanks, for making that point. Let’s have Larry’s take on that issue.”
Here are some other group dynamics to watch out for:
• Team discussions turning negative and personal
• Team members not contributing to the discussion (too quiet)
• Team members not following the main points of the discussion
• Differences of opinion that turn overly contentious
When faced with these types of situations, try these techniques:
|Dominating personality||Re-direct the discussion by asking the group a new question, one that is related to the topic (ex: What other ways could we lower costs?)|
|Negative participants||Explore reasons why the dynamic has changed. Ask those who are negative to explain their point of view, for ex: “Why don’t you believe the timetable is doable?|
|Silent Riders||Ask them a direct question, for ex: “Joan, what is your view of the change in our marketing plan for product X?”|
|Warriors||Handle them off line, and ask probing questions why this is occurring. If possible, schedule a face-to-face. If that is not an option, set up a video/teleconference ASAP.|
|Absentees||See directly above. This is a situation that is best handled in a private discussion. If it continues, you may look to transition this member off your team.|
With virtual teams comprised of members from diverse cultures and different locations, some with an imperfect command of English, it is not surprising to come across a wide range of personalities. I have worked with clients in these challenging circumstances, and I always begin the engagement by sharing what I call my ‘golden rule’ of cross cultural collaboration: Keep an open mind, constantly ask questions, and above all, LISTEN TO WHAT YOUR PEOPLE ARE TELLING YOU. There is much to be gained by inviting true collaboration in the virtual environment. After all, since you can’t manage in person, strong relationships are critical to meeting the very objectives your team was formed to deliver in the first place for enhancing leadership in a virtual world.