I was once on a team call, where I was logged in remotely while most others were co-located on site at HQ. It was one of the most dis-empowering experiences I have had! There were many side conversations, white boarding and decisions that side-lined those of us on the phone/ online. Co-location also meant greater “influence” in the decision making. Unfortunately, this was just one of my many many bad remote meeting experiences. All this changed for me when I worked for a leader, who showed me what great looked like- in the way distributed teams can work together. I learnt from him that we can do things differently. And when it works well- magic happens!
So, what did he do differently? He addressed the biggest issues with remote team meetings masterfully!
- Improve Focus
He ensured we stayed focused in the meeting with a pre-sent agenda. We all knew what the meeting was for and how much time we had.
Meetings were short and efficient, with the unstated goal to finish ahead of the allotted time. If more time was really needed, we got it. But over-running the allotted time was not acceptable.
- Minimize Distraction
He helped us build the discipline of minimizing irrelevant discussions by sending preparation documentation prior to the meeting.
We all kept the video on during the calls and this helped us keep each other honest. While he never reprimanded anyone in public, he always gently & firmly let us know when he noticed us multi-tasking during the meeting.
He also encouraged us to support each other & hold each other accountable. It’s always easier to correct oneself when a peer tells us directly (& not the manager) that we are straying from the agreed team norms.
He led by example and helped us learn how to let each other speak, listen carefully and respond. This did not mean that we were all polite and non-committal. Not at all! There were many heated arguments and discussions. But no one was sidelined just because they spoke softly or were shy. We learned how to include our quieter colleagues and making sure that their opinions got fair airtime.
- Making 1:1s count
I have learned everything I know about 1:1s from him. It didn’t matter if it was a formal 1:1 or an impromptu one- he always let us speak and heard everything we had to say.
A conversation was not a competition that he had to win! We had the voice and his full attention.
He never multi-tasked during the discussion. I knew I always had his full attention. We did not agree on everything, but I always felt heard!
Listening and meeting management are both under-rated leadership skills. Something that most leaders and managers are not trained for! In a remote work scenario these have become more critical for team success than ever before.
Listening to our teams and helping them listen to each other is the cornerstone of building high-performing remote teams!