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Inclusive Leadership Tips For Running Online Meetings

Most of us are running or attending meetings every day. Me included. I've been observing sessions as it's hard for me to turn off my lens on creating more inclusive spaces. You should know that wherever you are (work, school, place of worship, restaurant, online, etc.), you can use that as an opportunity to practice inclusive leadership skills.


Below are a few thoughts for consideration:

  1. Watch out for the use of non-inclusive language. It's hard to eliminate things like "you guys," but being aware and working on correcting that habit would be a step in the right direction. Start a jar where you put money in it every time you say "you guys" to a broad audience. I've been noticing edicts, and I don't know if it's because people are uncomfortable online or have challenges or the perception that we're all distracted when we come together for an online meeting. Observe the handling of edicts of what everyone must do. When they appear, it is a sign that you're not pausing to recognize individual needs. Using broad brush strokes suggests there's a one-size fit approach, and everyone must comply. Remember that your audience has different preferences on how they work and learn. So, treat your audience as though you see their differences.

  2. Stifling communications can send a message that varying perspectives are unwelcome. Believe it or not, you can be showing your bias (preference) when you double down that there's only one method of communication. Instead, allow different communication entry points in your meetings. Communication stifling also lessens the ability for innovative ideas to be accepted. Remember, everyone is watching or listening to you. Be consistent in your messaging. In other words, please avoid telling your audience they can only turn on their camera and come online to communicate with you. Give them options that include the ability to share anonymously.

  3. The mandate for being on camera makes me think of the request to be in the office at your desk for me to know that you're working. It's like management by walking around online. Essentially, meeting goers must be on camera for you to know that they are engaged. Not so. Seeing a sea of names is very frustrating; I get it. But as inclusive leaders, we must allow for the discomfort as we learn new ways of working and being. We must trust our people. Where did we get the signal that people are untrustworthy if they are off-screen? So now you have people attending meetings from planes, while driving, or in hospital beds because a culture requires 100% connectedness. Instead, be respectful of people's ability to be adults. Share the commitment and requirements, but have empathy that life is happening and your attendees may need to be off-camera during your meeting. Shaming or punishing the collective for the off-camera engagement should be non-existent. Be sure to treat each meeting circumstance differently. Refrain from carrying over what you experienced in a previous meeting or your past life to an existing session expecting the same behavior. Treating people as if they can only add value if they are on camera sends the wrong message about a culture striving to be inclusive.


What are some things you're noticing that are counter to inclusion? Here's to the lifelong journey of being an inclusive leader. Collectively, we have much to learn.

Here at SME, our passion is around elevating leadership to embrace inclusivity. We can partner with you to keep your talent and create an inclusive culture where employees can thrive. Book a call with Simone to discuss how we can collaborate and support you and your organization.

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