Remote Team Meetings Can Suck
It is no secret that remote team meetings can be boring and useless (boring meetings seem to be a rite of passage in business) and erode team morale. Even LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner agrees.
Avoid the waste.
They can also be a breeding ground for wasteful tendencies and conflict. However, as Patrick Lencioni points out in the business-themed novel Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable…About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business (J-B Lencioni Series) doing away with meetings is not a solid solution. It is not too smart to think that the solution to a core part of a remote team is to remove the means for which it builds relationships and pass along information. You will see blogs out there that claim that you need to eliminate meetings completely to be an effective leader, but let’s keep it real – you are not Mark Cuban and you need to work with other people to get things done.
Rather, Lencioni advises that meetings should be dramatic and structured to be easily acted upon with clear purpose. For internal remote team meetings, it is okay to joke around at the beginning and spend some time catching up since the last call. “How was the trip to the vet?” “Show us your new baby pictures!” “Congrats on your kid’s graduation!” However, make sure to keep it tasteful and friendly.
Get to the point.
Once all the participants have gathered, cut the meandering business lingo and get straight to the point. Commit to a rule – if you cannot explain it in plain language in less than 5 minutes, cut it out or break it into parts. If the topics of the meeting do not have an overall theme, break them into parts and have another meeting for each. If there is no deliverable, send it in an email or whatever means of communication your organization uses.
As the team leader of a remote team, you need to make it a point to do the most important part of the meeting: show up, and show up on time. Because there will certainly be technical issues, schedule extra time to get set up – at least ten minutes in advance. Connect to the Wi-Fi. Dial the call-in number. Enter the meeting code. Open up any meeting documents, and announce yourself to the virtual room.
If you regularly miss out on meetings, you will be at a disadvantage when it comes to being assigned to the more favorable tasks. If you are the leader of the remote team and you miss out on calls that you have defined as critical, you lose the ability to influence your team.
When you miss a meeting, you are passively communicating to your remote team that the purpose of the meeting is not as important as whatever you decided to do while you ditch the team call. The meeting attendance can be thought of in math terms; each team call that you miss in sequence can exponentially reduce your awareness of the project and tasks at hand. This can cause you to appear aloof and unconvincing as a leader. As a result, your team will gradually begin to fall apart. People will then become disengaged, but present, and will start looking for something else to do in another screen while the meeting is running. At best, another team member will take charge and begin to arrange for the meetings. At worst, the team will be abandoned and the project will be rendered a failure.