With the growing number of team meetings conducted through video conferences, a new brand of undesired teammates has emerged—silhouette teammates.

Silhouette teammates are individuals who have sunlit windows or other sources of bright light behind them that cause their on-screen image to appear darkened and distorted. As the name suggests, only their shadowy silhouette is visible to the other conference participants.

Speaking from this position is inconsiderate and evidence of a lack of empathy—even when it’s done unintentionally. Silhouette teammates aren’t considering what it’s like to be on the other side of their communications. They’re often unaware of how distracting they are and how much more challenging it is to converse with them.

Most experts assert that 70 percent of communication is nonverbal. By positioning themselves in front of light sources and allowing their images to be distorted, silhouette teammates deprive viewers of the opportunity to see their facial expressions and read their body language. Their awkward position diminishes their ability to effectively communicate.

While the label “silhouette teammates” is new, the problem of unempathetic teammates failing to consider how their actions—or inactions—impact the other members of their team is not. Insufficient empathy plagued teams long before the advent of video conferencing.

Good teammates practice self-awareness. They have empathy and are cognizant of how their choices affect the other members of their team. Good teammates factor this valuable information into their decisions before they proceed.

A definitive correlation exists between the depth of a team’s empathy and the amount of drama it encounters. Empathetic teams have less drama and are more connected.

The Outlaw Josey Wales movie posterI enjoy watching Westerns. A favorite of mine is Clint Eastwood’s classic The Outlaw Josey Wales. The film is about an aggrieved Confederate soldier who refuses to surrender.

In one of the film’s pivotal scenes, Eastwood’s character approaches a group of Comancheros who kidnapped his sidekick, an affable old Cherokee named Lone Watie. With the sun rising behind him, Eastwood rides his horse toward the kidnappers. Watie remarks that forcing the Comancheros to face the sun gives Eastwood “an edge.”

Having the sun at their back may give gunslingers an edge, but it won’t work that way for participants on a team video conference. Being a better teammate will give your team an edge. And being considerate of others and practicing empathy will make you a better teammate.

As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.

One More Thing…

Want to improve the quality of your team video meetings? Check out this short video we released about the Three P’s (Position, Placement, and Presentation) of Video Meetings.


Lance Loya is the founder and CEO of the Good Teammate Factory. He is a college basketball coach turned author, blogger, and professional speaker, who inspires TEAMBUSTERS to become TEAMMATES. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or through his weekly Teammate Tuesday blog.


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