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Lessons from Leading Remote: Meetings

remote work Jun 08, 2022

What makes a meeting worth your time? There are probably as many answers to that question as there are people. We value different things. We communicate differently. Our needs are just that … “ours.” So, as a leader, how are you to create meetings that are meaningful to people with so many different needs? Let’s look at lessons we learned about meetings in a season of “forced” remote work. 

What forced you to re-think meetings in a remote world?

Virtual meetings are hard to sustain for a full day. In person meetings allow you to move around to different rooms and have changes in scenery. The co-located experience with real people in real time makes a day filled with meetings more achievable. Virtual meetings are nearly impossible to sustain at that pace. This season of remote work has taught us that if we are going to survive in front of a screen, we must rethink our meetings.

"Communication works for those who work at it." ~John Powell

How do you know when you need to re-think your meetings?

If you are hearing some rumblings, it’s time to take a look at how a shift in the way you do meetings might offer solutions. It’s likely these concerns emerged before a transition to working remotely. However, what we learned from this season might help you find a solution to concerns that previously “haunted” your team.

Concern 1: People complained they weren't getting the information. 

Our knee jerk reaction is to set up a meeting, which may not be the right solution. Consider alternative options for sharing information and helping people get what they need to do their job well. Remote working has taught us how many more “tools'' we have at our fingertips for communication. It may require a meeting when the information is complex, a solution is not obvious, discussion is needed, or there is a personal impact to the information that needs to be nuanced with relational communication.

Concern 2: People were getting bored, came late or didn't engage.

People will often participate more fully when they have a role to play, information to share, or a purpose that matters to them. Not every meeting will fit the bill so keeping it short can help people settle in even if the meeting doesn’t quite fit their style. Remote meetings have taught us the value of keeping it on point because we can only handle so much screen time. Translate that learning to all your meetings whether you stay remote, go hybrid or return to co-located work. 

  • Rotate leadership of the meeting or delegate roles to directly involve team members
  • Get clear on your purpose for the meeting and communicate it beforehand 
  • Keep the agenda focused and use a “parking lot” for non-agenda items in order to stay focused and deal with them later
  • Change it up >> start with an icebreaker, story of impact, or a game to get people engaged and energized

Concern 3: Decisions didn't get made and next steps were unclear.

We have learned that leading remote is served well by shared documentation so everyone has ongoing access to information, decisions and action items. Create a process to document decisions that arise out of a meeting. Many remote teams have utilized project management software systems to keep tasks and deadlines clear on collaborative projects. Entering assignments into the system “real-time” during the meeting can address this concern that may have been festering long before a pandemic forced your team to work remotely.

Take Meetings to the Next Level

A new world of work means new ways to connect and meet together. If your meetings are less than you hoped for, then learn from our season of remote work and rethink how you facilitate and navigate meetings.

  1. Identify and discuss what is and isn’t working about your meetings.
  2. Talk to your team about what energizes them about meetings and how to incorporate this into the team’s meetings.
  3. Get additional ideas about how to rethink your meetings from this blog series on meetings.
  4. Create an “experiment” to test one of these ideas in your next meeting and evaluate how it goes.
  5. Adjust and try another experiment.

Different kinds of meetings accomplish different purposes. That means you might have to try several experiments to see what fits for the purpose of that unique meeting. What has worked for you or your team to make meetings engaging and productive? Comment below or let me know what questions come up for you as you plan your next meeting!

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