Overcoming Biases to Make Hybrid Meetings More Effective

Overcoming Biases to Make Hybrid Meetings More Effective

Chances are that future staff meetings or any other type of meeting will have at least one participant joining virtually if not more.  It’s a lot easier to facilitate meetings when all participants are either face-to-face or remote.  Hybrid meetings where some participants are face-to-face and others are remote, require different skill sets and strategies to help ensure everyone in engaged and the meeting is purposeful.

A key to making hybrid meetings effective is to check biases as the door, claims Deborah Grayson Riebel, author of Overcoming Overthinking: 36 Ways to Tame Anxiety for Work, School and Life.  To check bias, you need to recognize that everyone has biases that impact how situations and team members are perceived and what is paid attention to and what is ignored.  Biases can make remote employees believe they are less important or that the topics being discussed are not that meaningful.  

Riebel identified five biases that can adversely affect hybrid meetings.  Proximity bias occurs when the meeting leader demonstrates a preference for those who are attending in person to the exclusion of those participating remotely.  To avoid proximity bias, focus on goals, values, experiences and preferences that you want to relate to meeting attendees as opposed to focusing on who is in the room and who’s not.

Expedience bias reflects a desire for speed – speedy decisions, resolutions and actions that are decided without taking time for more clarity, understanding or investigating alternatives.  This can occur in hybrid meetings by making decisions based on the comments and opinions of those in the room to the exclusion of those working remotely.  This bias can be tempered, especially if there are critical factors to consider before making the decision, by developing agendas that give the status of the decision and expectations of each team member.  This encourages team members to prepare for the discussion and let they know that they will be expected to provide their input.  Another way to avoid expedience bias is to ask each team member at the start of the meeting to write down their thoughts and questions that they need answered to make decisions.

Closeness communication bias occurs when you anticipate what another person is going to say.  In hybrid meetings, familiarity with those who are remote often causes in-person meeting participants to tune them out and avoid asking deeper or more clarifying question because they assume they know what the remote worker is going to say. You can avoid this bias by actively listening and paraphrasing what the remote participant has said or the point that they are trying to make.  Doing so makes remote workers believe that they are contributing and their opinions are valued.

Bike-shedding effect is to spend too much time on trivial issues rather than challenging, more complex and important issues such as how are we going to effectively respond and communicate supply chain challenges.  A strong agenda that identifies specific tasks and also includes status updates and expectations can keep meetings focused on the most important topics that you want discussed.  If meeting participants start discussing issues not on the agenda, stop the conversation and put them under new business or in a short-term parking lot.

Confirmation bias is believing what you want to believe when facts or circumstances prove otherwise.  In a hybrid meeting, you may believe that remote participants are not as engaged as in-person counterparts.  Once you believe that you need to look for signs that justifies your belief such as the remote participant has turned off the video or muted the audio.   Avoid confirmation bias by attempting to disprove your opinion by challenging meeting attendees if they believe remote participants are less engaged and if so, why and what can be done to increase their engagement.  


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