An opportunity to reconnect and realign
I was chatting to a friend last week and she was telling me about a disastrous team meeting she’d attended. Not because her team is a disaster. Just the meeting. And it got me thinking; in the shadow of Covid-19, all around the world, teams large and small are now having to assemble not at a luxury country hotels and other imaginative venues, but rather from their home office/kitchen table whilst dealing with the challenges of remote working.
You may already engage in virtual meetings as part of your everyday workflow, but how to make them truly effective can be a bit of a challenge. Getting a clear understanding of how and why remote meetings work, and how to make them work for you, is really important.
What’s the best virtual meeting technology? How do I ensure everything that needs covering is covered before everyone disconnects? I’ve compiled some do’s and don’ts to look at what you need to know about running effective virtual team meetings:
Execution is the ability to mesh strategy with reality, align people with goals, and achieve the promised results. – Larry Bossidy
1. CLARIFY EXPECTATIONS
Be crystal clear about your objectives. The paradox of any effective meetings is that to raise the likelihood that it will have a successful and lasting outcome, preparations need to be made before the meeting occurs. So beforehand, make sure everyone is clear about what you aim to achieve, what success looks like and how you will measure it. It’s also really helpful to be clear about everyone’s roles and responsibilities in preparing for, as well as during the meeting itself.
- Develop: clear strategic priorities and measurable outcomes that the team are committed to.
- Create: an accountability plan to follow-up and track goals after the meeting.
- Engage: those attending in a performance improvement strategy.
Remember to ask yourself, what do I want the team to understand, agree to and act on? How do I want them to feel after the meeting, and what can I do to support that?
Top Tip: “I’d be happy if, by the end of our event, we [insert objectives].” This will help you to clarify expectations when you set down the objectives beforehand. It will also increase their engagement by allowing them to prepare for the discussion.
2. CHOOSE THE RIGHT TOOL
Get the right functionality. There is an abundance of technology out there that makes the process of running an online meeting easier, faster, and more collaborative, but with that plethora of choice, how do you figure out which of these tools is right for your team?
When choosing remote meeting tools:
- Visual: do you need to be able to see everyone?
- Collaborative: do you need everyone to be able to work collaboratively in the moment?
- Participative: do you need everyone to watch a presentation or demo in real time?
We use a combination of Microsoft Teams and Zoom which allow us to screen-share, to work simultaneously on different tasks and projects and to use video conferencing so we can see each other during the virtual meeting.
The point is, the ‘right’ tools depend on your needs; each is different, but I’d suggest that all benefit from a tool that has both video and audio functionality at the very least.
3. BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
Develop a detailed plan. And by plan, I mean an agenda, a plan for the meeting. Once you have a clear set of objectives and know who’s dialling in, create a detailed plan that reflects and reinforces those goals. Think about timings too; rule of thumb is two hours maximum. This will ensure topics aren’t cut short, or drawn out. Don’t be over ambitious – you can only effectively tackle 2 or 3 big ticket items in a one meeting. Your plan should include:
- Topics of discussion (obviously!)
- Specific objectives for each topic (remember, one action point per strategic goal)
- Add some variety. Noone wants to sit through endless Powerpoints or multiple discussions, one after the other, so mix things up with brainstorming, Q&A etc.
- Timing. Be realistic, and allocate a timekeeper for each topic.
- Preparation. What needs to be done beforehand, and by whom?
Top Tip: Check your plan against your objectives, making sure you can map each topic back to each objective. It may take a few go’s, but time spent here will keep the energy and engagement during the call.
4. LAY THE FOUNDATIONS
Proactively create opportunities. When you work face-to-face with people, there are plenty of opportunities throughout the day to stop, chat and connect. Those informal conversations and connections help build a rapport that carries over into meetings, making people feel more engaged and perhaps more comfortable voicing their opinions or offering feedback.
But at present, when more people are working remotely, they don’t have the same opportunities, which is why you have to proactively create them. Even if people know each other, it’s important to get everyone comfortable with communicating virtually.
Top Tip: We were rather late to the party in terms of Microsoft Teams however that has allowed us to build a communal place where our team can connect outside of structured meetings. That shared space helps everyone to shift their mindset to one of virtual collaboration and lays the foundation for successful online meetings.
Work together to create a team charter. The most common complaint about virtual meetings is that there is no follow-up and that any progress that has been made turns out to be temporary, with any goals that have been set falling by the wayside. By agreeing agreed what each person needs to do to drive plan forward, it ensures action points are accountable. And don’t forget to schedule regular check-ins in the coming days or weeks.
Ask the team:
- How will we hold each other accountable for executing on the plans and decisions agreed to?
- What needs to go on the calendar?
- At each check-in, who needs to be there and what are we focusing on?
- What are the realistic timescales we’re working towards?
Top Tip: Agree on your charter and schedule your first few check-in meeting dates/times with everyone there. Don’t be surprised if your team is resistant to more meetings; emphasize the importance of regularly checking in during this period of uncertainty and adjustment. These are business priorities; no cancelling or postponing! This will help everyone commit to follow-through, give you a forum to revisit the goals you established, and provide you with an opportunity to course correct.
A successful team virtual meeting can provide an opportunity for the team to change old habits and create new ways of communicating and collaborating. But it’s the combination of prior planning and mindful follow-through that makes it successful. Your team will be more engaged, more closely aligned and better prepared to execute. More importantly, they will be grateful for the time spent and the health and success of the business will be better for it.
Keep safe and well!
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