Online team meetings – a waste of precious time, or simply precious?

Six tips to make online team meetings something to look forward to

,If you’re leading a dispersed team, chances are online meetings take up a great part of your day. Do you end up in meetings that have no objective with one person dominating, others sitting in silence and not contributing? Here are six tips to make those meetings align with what you want to achieve.

  1. Why do you have team meetings?

The practical reasons.

What do they achieve? Some reasons may be practical, like who is doing what, making sure the longer-term projects are being worked on and the team workload is being distributed the way it needs to be. Getting clear on workload may be one core objective.  Another may be making decisions and agreeing next steps to action. And there are other, bigger reasons for those meetings.

The strategic reasons.

What do your team meetings achieve for your longer-term objectives? How do they help the team culture? How do they reinforce the purpose of your organisation and the role of your team in this purpose? How do the meetings assist the growth and development of the team members? How do they allow for diversity and inclusion? How do they incorporate awareness of the system (and people)? How do they demonstrate upholding the values of your organisation? Do the meetings demonstrate how to listen well and overall, how to lead well?

Meetings become precious when they run in a way that is both practical and strategic. I found Alain Cardon’s[1] method of running team meetings incredibly useful in my years leading a dispersed team across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

  1. Do the boring basics

I have yet to meet anybody who likes putting together an agenda, taking minutes or reminding colleagues they’re out of time, but each meeting a member of the team picks up this role. Like all roles under the Systemic Delegated Process, the job rotates. There are five roles: The facilitator, the time-keeper, the decision-maker, the scribe and the meta.[2] The process gives a framework, and the work happens in how well the team agrees to the process and why.

  1. Enhance your people’s skills

For example, if one of your strategic objectives is to develop the skills of your team members, then rotating the roles, especially who facilitates, is extremely important. Sharing the facilitation means each member of the team practices listening, ensuring they are developing their ability to lead. The facilitator also ensures everyone is heard; they allow people to conflict in a safe environment where all ideas are welcome, building safety and trust between team members.

  1. Allow time to listen

This process works when the team members are prepared to make a change. For example: a team I was part of had the culture of members interrupting each other – we all did it, mainly because we felt we weren’t being listened to.  We agreed to practice listening. And to do this, we agreed to raise our hand (either physically or electronically) when we wanted to speak. The facilitator would then acknowledge who had raised their hand and invite someone to speak. At the beginning it felt like being back in school, but a few weeks in, our conversation flowed without interruption and with plenty of time for people to express their ideas. The irony is that the discipline of listening, and knowing you will be listened to, takes away the need for interruption and makes a fast and efficient meeting. If some team members tend to go on a bit, then the time-keeper can give everyone two minutes to make their point before they move on to the next person.

  1. Agree to disagree

Listening made time for another objective; to connect with each other as humans, which we allocated time for at the beginning of each meeting. Listening also gave time to conflict and argue possibilities. Sometimes the official leader of the team needs to make a decision that not everyone agrees with – that’s the job, but using this method, every member of the team has a chance to have their thoughts heard.

  1. Distribute power

In any team, and especially one at a distance from each other, there are other dynamics at play on a strategic level – building trust, empowering the members of your team, ensuring alignment and delivery of results, allowing new ideas and creativity to emerge. Make the unconscious, conscious to reflect the values of your team. E.g., if one of your values is respect for others … how does this show up in a team meeting? Does this mean equal speaking time for all, or maybe that everyone’s point of view is heard and part of the role of facilitator of the meeting is ensuring this.

The benefits of a team that trusts is that anyone can bring in new ideas, give feedback about what they’re hearing, including the difficult problems. The meeting is a safe space where the can say what is really going on. Creativity is encouraged because there is a deliberate policy of all being welcomed. Everyone’s voice is heard. There is a commitment to the team decisions and it is the team that collectively holds people accountable.

Running team meetings well, and practiced consistently, will create a team environment where the difficult topics can be discussed, a culture of belonging emerges and ultimately the team performs at its best. You will not want to miss another precious team meeting.

  1. [1]Copyright 2008. www.metasysteme-coaching.eu Alain Cardon, https://www.metasysteme-coaching.eu/english/systemic-team-coaching-delegated-processes/ accessed 26 May 2021.
  2. [2] Reference: https://wind4change.com/delegated-roles-meeting-alain-cardon/ accessed 26 May 2021.
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Veronica Lysaght

Veronica Lysaght

Founder of Leading with Humanity

Veronica believes that courageous, compassionate and inspiring leadership is needed to deal with the crises we face in the world at the moment, and that this style of leading is something we can all achieve. Her mission is to play her part in making leading with humanity an everyday reality.
She has a background in business, journalism, counselling and association management. She is an ICF certified Integral coach and has more than 20 years’ experience coaching.

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