Subtitle: is "cameras on" required? How a leadership team decides
Recently this discussion came up among leaders in slack:
person 1: curious to hear your (and others') thoughts about "cameras on" during meetings. I've been sitting in on more sprint rituals and engineering engagement is a bit low. I'm tempted to advocate for "forcing" cameras on, but I'm open-minded that I might have a blind spot where that could be a bad/exclusionary idea.
person 2: I'm of the same, maybe naive point of view, that "cameras on" would be ideal for improved engagement (both in meetings in the moment, as well as for forming connections between team members). And have also been surprised by how common it is for engineers to leave them off. I'm most interested to hear from [other leaders @ mentioned] to better understand why this is so common on your teams, and whether it would be bad/exclusionary to "force" them on. What's the root of why engineers are choosing to turn their cameras off? I don't think it's connection bandwidth, as I've seen most people on video at one time or another, at least during the interview process.
[… the discussion continued with messages from additional folks, in a “here’s some things to consider” and “I want to dig more into this” direction…]
I wrote the following:
Bo: Running a globally distributed remote company is already on management "hard mode".... doing it while being deprived as managers of the human connection (seeing their face, seeing how they react to what you say, etc) is like playing the management game on God Mode. We're not only not good enough yet as an org, we simply don't have enough management bandwidth.
The first principle here, in my mind, is "as leaders we get the team we select for". If we as leaders don't have an opinion on something, then we are accepting & get the naturally occurring distribution of that trait in the global population. So it's our job to have a strong opinion on things that will impact the quality of the work we do, rather than demurely accept the preference distribution of the global population. I don't think any of us stepping into this leadership role and said "you know, what I want is a team where half the people I've never seen their face, and in meeting can't tell if they're engaged or not". We clearly (AFAIK) have a preference, but sometimes we worry about "imposing our preference" on others. Note that it is our job to lead people our way. That's why these folks chose to work for you. And if over time some people find that don't want to be here, that's totally okay, the people who stay will be thankful you were a strong leader with clear expectations. I'd rather we have a strong & tight culture of fewer people rather than a weak diffuse one where everyone does what they want.
I wanted to broadcast this conversation to help current and future leaders around the organization think & decide… not about video, but in general.
You either have no opinion because it doesn’t matter. Or you’re shouting what you want from the rooftops at the top of your lungs. As a leader There. Is. No. Middle. Ground.
P.S. It’s easy to get hampered by what you’re trying to avoid (excluding people) but instead we need to focus on what we want (engagement). See