Aimee O'Leary
Written by
Aimee O'Leary

Virtual meetings have taken away many of the non-verbal cues we use to feel comfortable asking questions, raising concerns, and sharing ideas. Participating can feel much more difficult when you don’t have the natural pauses and reassuring nods of in-person meetings. But all is not lost. Most platforms offer solutions to make sure everyone is getting a chance to share their thoughts in a way that feels comfortable and safe – you just might not be using them.

In this article Amy C. Edmondson and Gene Daley outline 7 ways to ensure psychological safety in virtual meetings.

From the Article: 

Yes/No. Typically a green checkmark and red X, this tool allows quick input from everyone. A leader can invite missing participants to chime in, setting an expectation that all voices are needed. The tool’s obvious limitation is that not all issues are binary in nature. For greater nuance in soliciting voice, poll and chat tools provide worthy alternatives.

Polls. Anonymous polls make it easy to express an opinion without fear of being singled out, and the results prompt thoughtful probing to dig into diverse views. This works best when leaders frame diverse views as a resource before asking: “What are people seeing that leads to this spread?”

Consider what happened in a recent leadership program focused on psychological safety. A senior executive proclaimed: “I don’t think we have an issue with [low] psychological safety at our company, but if you disagree, please enlighten me.” Unsurprisingly, no one used the hand-raise or chat functions. The facilitator then quickly launched an anonymous poll: “On a scale of 1 to 5, rate the level of psychological safety in our company.” When a majority of responses were “3”, the executive responded, “Clearly, I need to be less assumptive in my questioning!” At that point, individuals used hand-raise and were willing to speak up with candid views.

In another recent meeting, a manager used the anonymous poll function to ask participants to force-rank the company’s diversity initiatives on “potential impact” and “current performance.” This yielded a 2×2 map, identifying High Impact/Low Performance initiatives (“highest priorities”) versus “Lower Impact/High Performance” initiatives. The tool thereby triggered a richer, more candid dialogue, followed by brainstorming and action planning in the midst of national protests on systemic racism.

Get the full article online: How to Foster Psychological Safety in Virtual Meetings.

Make sure to explore Inspiring Workplace’s other content and insights about leadership.

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