As we implement homeworking in order to fight the spreading of the coronavirus, we need to realize that this change has an extended impact on the way we interact and work. Here are some key thoughts and tips to help managing virtual teams !
Tips on virtual team meetings !
Some of us will have had a few weeks of home working behind them by now, some of us are just transitioning into homeworking. No matter where you are in the transition process, you are in the process of changing your habits. As I have pointed out in my article about transitioning into home working, change brings insecurity and structured communication is more important than ever. As we get into the habit of organizing our work remotely, our agenda’s get packed with virtual meetings. This is great as it brings people together but there is a risk of losing productivity. If you are on the phone the whole day, there is no time for deep, productive work. Execution and delivery will suffer. So, we need to be clever about our virtual meetings.
There are a few traps to avoid when we organize remote meetings !
1 : Avoid planning meetings out of insecurity !
As teams work remote, managers sometimes plan meetings for the following reasons:
- To make sure that everybody is behind their desk and available;
- To check if people are making progress with their assignments.
This kind of meetings can be very frustrating for the team members as the lack of confidence and trust is obvious. There are much better ways to check-in and get feedback on progress.
2 : Avoid planning a virtual meeting without respecting others people’s workload !
Having worked in teams with team members who worked all over Europe, Middle East and Africa, I know how important it is to allow time for the team to connect and touch base with each other. Social connection is very important.
My point here is that each meeting should have a clear purpose, an agenda and it should be clear what kind of preparation is needed. This information should be sent out well in advance of the meeting. If you do not have the time to set up and prepare your meeting properly, postpone the meeting or cancel.
It might serve you if you go ahead with the meeting, but if you did not give the participants the time to think about the topic of the meeting, how they want to contribute and what they need to get out of the meeting, you waste their time and energy.
3 : Avoid disengaging people during a virtual meeting !
It can seem efficient to have the whole team on a call. I invite you, however, to think about the necessity of each participant to be there for the entire duration of the call.
Very often there are only two or three people who are really involved and needed to discuss the issue at hand. The rest of the team members are supposed to listen. No contribution is needed from them for most of the call. People are invited just in case their expertise is needed or just to be in the loop about what is being discussed.
Reality is that it is very difficult to concentrate and listen for one hour if the topic is not relevant. As the meeting is remote, it is very tempting to put the phone on mute and check emails instead.
Good organization is the key for any good virtual meeting !
I, therefore, suggest managing your virtual meetings differently. Think carefully about who needs to be on the call, when and for how long. Set an agenda with specific topics and a time-table. Invite people specifically for each topic and only for the time you discuss this topic.
This approach will not be appropriate for all meetings but if you put some thought into it, you will notice that it is possible for a lot of meetings. The big advantage is that you will need to manage the time during the call very deliberately. This will increase efficiency and focus.
Better one good meeting a day, then a day packed with inefficient meetings !
Whatever meeting structure you chose, my advice is to think carefully if it is the most appropriate for the team, taking into account the workload of the team and the importance of the topic.
Adapting the way you run meetings asks for some flexibility and really good preparation but I guarantee that it will pay off. It will reduce frustration, increase productivity and engagement.