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3 Takeaways from the First 30 days of Covid-19: Leading Zoom Conference Calls

By Jon Bailey

Families are doing it. Teachers are doing it. Even tax preparers are doing it. We are all doing it for one reason or another: making video conference calls, face-to-virtual-face, over the Internet. And, while I cannot offer any makeup or hairstyle tips to glam up your look, I can offer three tips I’ve recently discovered that can help you make it through leading another Zoom or Google Hangouts meeting with style and class.

Stay Organized: In the old days (that is, three weeks ago), most employees could be successful in internal meetings by jumping through old emails and relying on their memory. Video chat, however, has added a layer of complexity to meetings that requires more preparation. Whether you’re sharing your screen while scrolling through old meeting notes, taking new notes, and reviewing other notes or updating Keynote presentations with feedback while leading the feedback conversation, sticking to the primary task can get tough. The more you work from your list, the easier it is to bounce from executional activities back to a leadership role. I prefer to use paper and pen for live note taking, yes old school, to keep track of comments and action items; when the meeting is over, I can quickly transfer these notes to the necessary documents then rather than waste the group’s time by shuffling through multiple documents during the meeting.

No One Has Experienced This: My wife recently started teaching form home to 120+ high school students and was worried that she wouldn’t be up on all the tech, lingo, and process necessary to run the show. I too was unsure of how my staff would accept the way I run our morning stand-ups or our evening recap meetings because I have never done large scale video chats with team members. Then it hit me: very few of us have EVER done anything like this. My advice to my wife, and to myself, is to remember that we are pioneers. Sure, people have engaged in Zoom conference calls before, but never during a national pandemic, never as a daily morning catch-up, and never as their only contact with their high school teacher. Lead with confidence because this is uncharted territory. If you are responsible for leading your team in this uncertain time, your certainty in your leadership can help your team have confidence in themselves.

Try Not to Take Yourself Too Seriously: By now, the entire staff here at 62Above knows I’m willing to poke fun at myself if it means taking the edge off this time of high stress. Of course, a fully buttoned-up project leader is what the team needs, but they don’t want a leader so buttoned up that people are operating under fear. The more you can loosen up in these trying times, the more smiles you will see on the other end of the chat. While some may say a leader can never show cracks in their foundation, I’d argue it’s more important to be aware of those vulnerabilities and share them with your team. Try starting off your next meeting with a simple joke. If you aren’t good at making jokes, admit it, “I am horrible at making jokes, but I wanted to give it a try,” and read a joke directly off a Google search for funny jokes. By now, three plus weeks into working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, your team knows you aren’t the person to crack jokes, and when you acknowledge that you typically don’t act silly but you do it anyway, they will genuinely appreciate the levity you’ve brought into the meeting.

For context, I have been leading a daily morning stand-up meeting and evening recap with our entire staff. While some of the information is repetitive, by following these three tips, I am able to keep everyone engaged, on topic, and on task. Good luck with your next meeting, and I hope my advice might be of some use to you. Please reach out with any questions. We’re all in this together.