Wed, Apr 28, 2021 @ 11:04 AM Effective Meetings
I'm not going to lie, I miss being in a room with my team members. Seeing their real, 3-D faces when we talk would be amazing, but, for now, I'm still working remotely and focusing on the positives. Many aspects of remote work are much more effective, and one of them is the weekly team meeting. That's right—I said that Zoom can be an even more effective meeting format than gathering in person.
Here are some of the positive aspects of meeting remotely:
Easier to moderate discussions and give equal speaking time. The Zoom window is the ultimate equalizer; nobody is sitting at the head of the table with the implicit power to overrule other voices in the room.
Fewer side conversations, easier to reign in the discussions. If you are facilitating over Zoom with a group that's historically hard to reign in, you have the magic mute button on your side. If the team is going to be able to hear what's happening, it's essential that only one person speaks at a time, and you can implement group norms around hand-raising and when it's OK to mute/un-mute that will keep the conversations to one at a time.
Everyone focused on the screen right in front of them so it's easier to see and follow along than in a conference room. Maybe this is just for the nearsighted folks like me, but I always hate squinting and interrupting to ask the presenter in the conference room to "make it a little bigger, please." On my laptop at home, I can maximize the screen and focus on whatever is being shared, whether it's a Rhythm screen or my colleague's faces.
Of course, there are some downsides, too, and those can and should be mitigated. Here are some tips for maximizing the Zoom Weekly Meeting with your team:
Agree on the ground rules. These will depend on your team and what you need to have an effective meeting. Ground rules may include things like having your video turned on, muting until recognized to speak, raising your hand when you want the floor, closing your email until meeting is over, using chat to let us know if you need to step away for a moment, etc. The key is to develop these with the team so everyone is on board and comfortable with how to participate in the meeting.
Deal with distractions. This is an issue whether you are in-person or remote. Set a ground rule about waiting to check email or Slack or social media or the laundry—or whatever distractions are out there—until the meeting is over. Hold each other accountable gently to this rule: "Jessica, it looks like you may be distracted. Do you need to step away for a moment, or are you ready to rejoin the discussion?"
Prepare effectively. This is for everyone, but especially for the facilitator. Each person needs to update their Rhythm dashboards and plan their week ahead of time so they are ready to share and get aligned with the team during the meeting. In addition to their own personal meeting preparation, the facilitator must spend time planning the agenda for the meeting as well. If you are facilitating and see that there are 8 KPIs with a Red status, it's your job to decide which of them you have the time to really discuss in your meeting. Alternatively, if you see there's a crisis with your biggest customer, you may skip the KPIs altogether and spend the bulk of the time on solving that issue. If you come into the meeting without preparing in advance, you may miss the key discussions that are brought out by the data in the dashboards until it's too late to really dig into the issues.
Be flexible and go deeper. Think of your standard agenda as your guide, but don't let it limit your team. Use your judgment on introducing elements that make the meeting more effective for your team, like a different question each week designed to let the team connect on a more personal level, or a detailed discussion on your sales pipeline if that's what the team needs to be focused on and thinking about for the week. Zoom allows you to go deeper into specific topics than you could go in person; if you're talking about the customer issue, you can pull up the actual email with the customer's words to discuss, or you can go directly to the report in your CRM with the detailed pipeline information for all the team to see. You won't always need this level of detail, but it's easy to go directly to the source and all look at the same information in question if needed. If you've prepared well, you can go into the meeting confident about what your team needs to discuss and can be flexible with the time so you achieve the most important discussions—really go deep and wrestle issues to the ground—and can wait on everything else, if needed.
Make it spicy...and safe. I sometimes hear from clients that the weekly meeting is getting "stale" or people are not engaged in the discussions. This could be because you're not having the right conversations. If you've done a good job in quarterly planning, your dashboards are full of the most important goals your company needs to focus on—your mission-critical priorities. You are going to hit some snags along the way to executing your priorities and your meeting is for making adjustments and getting re-aligned when this inevitably happens. If your team's priorities and KPIs are never Yellow or Red, you have one of two problems: 1. You aren't setting challenging enough goals for your rockstar team (someone's sandbagging in planning), or 2. Your team is afraid to speak up when there's a problem. Make it safe, and make it spicy; don't shy away from the hard conversations. If there's a Red or Yellow, what can we do now to get it back on track? What are the roadblocks, what are the opportunities, and who can help? Encourage team members to speak candidly, and thank them when they show courage, to be honest and have tough discussions.
Following these tips can help you make the most of your Zoom meeting. Good luck, and I hope you solve some tough problems together this week!
Here are more Zoom Team Meeting resources:
Need help facilitating your next virtual planning session? Learn more here.
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