The virtual workplace is becoming more and more popular. In fact, the number of those who work virtually has grown 103 percent since 2005, according to one study.

And, it's not hard to figure out why. The benefits are numerous--lower overhead costs, flexibility, autonomy, a wider talent pool, and global reach.

But a physically dispersed workforce presents unique challenges--particularly when it comes to virtual team meetings.

Working on projects in more than forty countries, I noticed pretty much no organization was doing them right. Almost all meetings were riddled with awkward moments, interruptions, voices not being heard, technical glitches, and miscommunication.

The impact of these poorly held meetings can be pretty dire on team cohesion and your bottom line.

The solution is simple.

The pause.


That's right.

 

The pause.

The pause to hear answers. The pause to make sure technology works. The pause to accommodate non-native language speakers.

I started teaching this tactic in my training with LinkedIn on leading virtual teams in its management development program--and it's been a game changer for them and on other projects I've collaborated with around the globe.

Here are three powerful reasons why you should pause before beginning to speak when holding or participating in a virtual meeting:

Translation.

Many virtual team meetings are held with non-native English speakers. A pause allows them time to think of the words they want to use or translate from their own language before they speak. It helps to be more inclusion of your global teammates.

Emphasis.

You know you've done it-- checked emails, multi-tasked, or let your mind wander during a call. A pause brings attention back to the meeting. People begin to wonder what is going on and if they've missed something important. A pause suggests everyone should listen up!

Inclusion.

The pause allows for those personality styles with a preference for introversion or from a more hierarchical culture (not comfortable speaking up to those they perceive as the authority) to jump in with something they're thinking about or want to suggest.

It is particularly helpful if the pause follows an open question: "What are your thoughts?" Instead of a yes or no question which is always easy to answer with a "yes."

The pause may take more time in meetings but the savings comes in greater concentration and participation. Silence can be uncomfortable, but the power of silence brings out innovation, creates a stronger sense of team community, and allows all voices to be heard.