Many teams have been thrust into video conferences for their meetings after years of having them face to face. Even if they are used to video meetings, they may not be used to working from home. This new dynamic has created some uncomfortable and unproductive moments in meetings that can be averted if the team had co-created meeting norms or ground rules.
I’m finding that people have different expectations about what behaviors are appropriate in video conference calls. When unspoken, these differences can lead to frustration, anger, and passive-aggressive behavior. These negative outcomes can easily be averted if a team discusses and agrees to how they will behave on conference calls.
Recently, I was on a call where someone pointed their camera at their dog who had entered the room while someone else was speaking, creating an unintentional distraction. There seems to be wide disagreement on whether it is acceptable for pets or family members to be seen (or heard) on video during work calls. There is no “right” universal answer. Each team needs to agree to the behavioral norms and then agree to honor them.
Clearly establishing video conference call expectations provides the team with clarity about WHAT to do or WHAT NOT to do. Clarity satisfies our need for certainty, which creates safety and peace of mind – something we all need more of in times of change and crises.
Below are examples of teleconferencing expectations that you can consider:
- Always mute yourself unless you are speaking.
- Raise your hand if you want to speak and wait to be called on.
- If you agree with what is being said, give the thumbs up. If you disagree, give the thumbs down. (This assume video cameras are on.)
- No multi-tasking while on team meetings.
- Be on the call one-minute before it is set to begin and check all your audio/video equipment.
- Have a facilitator and a note-taker for each meeting.
Here are other important things to agree upon when people are working from home:
- When are we going to use video? (Is this required or optional?)
- What is the dress code for our team meetings? (Is it different in meetings with non-team members?)
- Is it OK for my pet to be in the background? On my lap? Walking across my desk?
- Is it OK for my kids or family members to be in the background?
- Is it OK if I eat while on the call?
- What is acceptable/not acceptable in my background?
As teams align about meeting norms and try these new or altered behaviors, they will need to monitor the results. At first, the team should do a quick check-in at the end of each call to find out what worked and what would make the next meeting better. As the team fine-tunes their meetings over time, they may make modifications or additions to the team meeting expectations. Ideally, this is an open process as continual improvement is the goal.
Openly talk about expectations and define team meeting norms that will set the team up to have enjoyable and highly productive meetings.
About the Author: Leigh Ann Rodgers, Founder of Better Teams and Forward, is an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator with 20 years of experience in the human development field. Leigh Ann is a skilled meeting facilitator, trainer, and coach working across the globe to help leaders cultivate teams that are happy and high-performing.
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