Managing Personalities in Virtual Teams

Hi and welcome to my podcast. I’m Nicola from The People Mentor.

Meetings are a part of life in any business or organisation. Productive meetings help people share ideas, make decisions, and build good relationships, while ineffective meetings waste people’s time and don’t bring any value to the business. 

Since the beginning of lockdown, many businesses have made the transition to remote working and those meetings have had to happen virtually, which has certainly brought its own challenges. 

Is it possible to have effective and productive meetings when you aren’t even in the same room?

Or when people’s motivation has waned due to the effects of lockdown and working from home?

And when a lack of scrutiny or social cues means that sometimes the worst of your team members’ personalities comes out?

Having virtual team meetings may have seemed like a welcome novelty at the beginning, but let’s face it, they can be hard-going. 

Maybe your weekly team meeting has snowballed into multiple catch-ups per day, where everyone has to sit uncomfortably with a painted-on grin, staring intently at their colleagues’ faces on screen.

The novelty of comforting meetings and catch-ups has now become virtual meeting fatigue, and there are plenty of reasons why. 

When there are a lot of people in the meeting, we are taking in so much sensory stimuli at once; looking for visual cues, noticing body language, looking at their backgrounds, or hearing noises that are going on wherever they are. This wouldn’t happen in a real-life meeting room and it can affect our focus and make us miss out on the important things. 

Speaking of focus, virtual meeting participants tend to fall into one of two camps; the person who drifts off, or the person who tries so hard to appear focused and interested that they end up feeling exhausted. In real-life meetings, we probably wouldn’t have to try so hard to focus on whoever is speaking and what they are saying as we do virtually. 

There’s also the issue that in virtual meetings, much of the interaction we’d have in the office is missing. We’d usually get the chance to have small talk, grab a coffee with a colleague, or find the time and space to dissect any issues we need to chat about. In virtual meetings, it’s difficult to capture anywhere near that level of energy or engagement. 

Lastly, this point takes me on to the subject I want to cover in this podcast because virtual meetings feel unnatural, this can have an effect on personalities and behaviour. 

You might find that in the absence of the usual social norms and cues, people’s manners leave a lot to be desired.

You might notice that people start to mirror each other’s behaviour, for good or bad.

And being in an unnatural virtual environment can really shine a light on the best and worst of people’s personalities.  

As a manager, you’re used to dealing with the different personalities in your team and you know that each person has their own strengths and weaknesses. Managing different personalities in virtual meetings is definitely more of a challenge, but it’s vital if you want to keep things productive. 

The key is not to approach each personality in the same way because they are all motivated by, and respond to, different things. 

Let’s look at some of the personalities you might find in virtual meetings and how to manage them.

Let me know if you recognise any of them! 

First, we have the Chatty Cathy. 

This person LOVES to talk. You’ll often find them interrupting others in the meeting or going off on tangents about completely unrelated things. They are the King or Queen of the long-winded answer that isn’t really an answer. 

They might not be deliberately trying to send your meeting off track, but that’s what tends to happen if you don’t nip it in the bud. 

Before everyone’s eyes glaze over or a meeting becomes a meeting within a meeting, politely tell them that if they have something else to discuss, they can send you an email or you can arrange another meeting. Explain that this meeting has its own objectives and you’d like to focus solely on those in the time you have. This will help you stay on track while reassuring your team members that they’ve been heard. 

Next, we have the Multitasker.

People’s attention does wane in meetings, and in virtual meetings, this can be even more of an issue. Muted audio and turned-off cameras mean that people can get away with doing everything except actually engaging in the meeting. Multitaskers might be checking emails, doing other work, texting, scrolling through social media, or even popping off to do chores during a call. The way to navigate this issue is to keep them on their toes and engaged in the meeting, by asking them their opinion on things or getting them to look up some information for you. Giving them something to actively engage in will reduce the chance of them having idle, distracted hands. 

Another person you’ll often find in virtual meetings is the Stand Up Comedian. Now this person can lighten the mood, and this is needed right now, but when their jokes, witty remarks, or anecdotes threaten to derail a meeting, you have to reign them in. A good way to do this is to allow them to chat and break the ice for a few minutes at the start of the meeting. If people start the meeting with a laugh and some good energy, it’s better for you. And it allows the Stand-Up Comedian a few minutes with their audience. 

The virtual opposite of the Stand Up Comedian is the Wallflower. This person may be very creative but they don’t share their ideas because they are introverted, and having everyone focusing on them can feel very uncomfortable. Their voice also tends to get drowned out by the more extroverted members of the team. 

Don’t miss out on their potentially very valuable contributions. Instead, plan some ways that you can encourage quieter team members to speak up. Don’t just put them on the spot, instead try to engage them by asking for their contribution by saying something like.

“ Sarah, I know you’ve worked on this sort of project before. Did you have these sorts of issues? I’d love to know how you solved them.”

You can also start meetings by encouraging everyone to participate because everyone’s thoughts matter. 

And finally, there’s the Negative Nelly. The team member who always sees the problem, not the solution. Who is quick to tell you why something won’t work without suggesting anything useful. This can be a bit of a drain on a team’s morale at a time when more negativity is definitely not needed. 

The way to deal with this person is instead of meeting them in their negativity, is to challenge them to come up with creative ways to help the team solve the issue at hand. 

Did you recognise any of these virtual meeting personalities? I hope you can take some helpful tips from this podcast to manage them and keep your virtual meetings on track. 

Teams are always a melting pot of different personalities, and in some ways, this can be of real benefit. People have different strengths and perspectives. 

No matter what type of personality they have, people do want to do meaningful work, develop, and have good relationships with others, but sometimes, if something in your team feels a little ‘off’ it may well go far deeper than issues with personalities.   

So what’s making things feel off-balance and how do you steady the ship again to take the business towards a more productive and secure future?

I can help. 

I’m a business consultant with over 30 years experience of in building and leading high-performing teams. I’m a safe pair of hands, I’ve been there and done that, and I know what’s needed to turn teams around and get them to perform at their best. 

Think of me as a Supernanny for troubled teams. 

I’ll help you get to grips with your team issues and get everyone pulling in the same direction. I’ll give you the tools you need to restore harmony and improve productivity, and I’ll help you feel more confident about the future.

Contact me today to find out more about how my Team Turnaround package can help you.

Put those team niggles to bed once and for all. 

Let me help you turn ‘good’ into ‘better.’ 

This is The People Mentor, signing off. See you next time! 

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