In the last few weeks, I’ve conducted several training programs on the topics of both managing remote teams and being a member of a team with remote members. There was a lot of interest in developing better strategies and skills to make meeting more efficient and to create an improved sense of engagement when meetings involved remote participants.
One person was surprised because he always thought of other people as the ones who were remote, and didn’t realize until attending the training program that when people are in the same room and he is calling in, that he is the one seen as remote, even though he may be in his office in the headquarters building.
I was able to present a lot of ideas for increasing engagement and participation. Some of the ideas were used in the program to show people how to implement the idea. The truth is that remote meetings require more planning and forethought.
Every meeting should have a Pre meeting and Post meeting phase, as well as the ‘meat’ of the meeting. However, the consensus is that most people are going at 150 MPH, and the Pre and Post phases get short shrift.
The Pre phase of the meeting can include:
- Determining the purpose of the meeting;
- Defining the outcomes of the meeting;
- Determining who will be invited;
- Ascertaining the dates, time, and place;
- Inviting participants (as well as those who might be interested (eyes and ears only);
- Creating an agenda;
- Sending the agenda to participants (at least 24 hours ahead of the meeting start time);
- Being clear about any pre-work or reading that needs to be done prior to meeting;
- Being clear about who needs to bring what and/or who is presenting and time parameters for that;
- Clarity/assignments of roles (e.g., time keeper, facilitator, note taker, parking lot attendant);
- Arranging for needed technology;
- Testing technology to insure it works (for everyone);
- Arranging for a technician to be on hand/on call;
- Having a back up for technology – just in case (White Boards, Email, PowerPoint, WebEx, GoToMeeting, SKYPE).
I bet you won’t be surprised to hear that as we talked about improving the effectiveness of remote meetings and teams and what each person could take back on the job, one of the participants said that he was too busy to do any of this and he would probably just continue to show up at meetings nad run them as well as he could.
“Why did you sign up for this program? “ I asked.
“I wanted to learn how to make my meetings with remote members more effective,” he replied.
“Did you think that you wouldn’t have to do anything differently than what you were currently doing?” I asked.
He smiled sheepishly and said “I guess,” and everyone chuckled.
I told him that nothing will change if you do nothing differently. But I DO understand that not only are we all very busy, we also have habits that, whether they work for us or not, deeply ingrained in our behavior.
So I suggested that he try one thing. Do one thing from the Pre, During, or Post lists that he isn’t currently doing. And do that for the next 6 meetings. See if there is an improvement. Then add another thing from one of the lists. And do that for the next 6 meetings. See if there is an improvement. And keep adding something that moves the team toward being more efficient.
It can be overwhelming when you think about overhauling a practice that is part of the workplace culture. So try it like a juggler who learns to juggle.
The basic premise is that you start with juggling 1 ball (which many people call tossing), then add another and when you have established competence with 2 balls, then you add a third. The process requires tools (balls if you are a juggler, the strategies and information you learn in a training program), dexterity (eye-hand coordination if you are a juggler, a variety of tools to use to accomplish the goals you have) and patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day and changing habits won’t magically transform your meeting.
But nothing changes if nothing changes. If you want a better outcome, a more engaged team, and a more efficient way to manage your remote work relationships, let me know.
I can give you the tools.