Hello and welcome to the latest blue pea leader podcast.
I was recently asked by a client for help around doing high energy remote meetings, especially on a monday morning.
Let’s face it, it’s tough when we’re used to being in the same room and now are interacting through zoom, skpe or teams. Keeping everyone engaged and making the meetings meaningful poses it’s own challenges when we’re remote.
So I’m going to cover 3 things in this episode, firstly, how you can do high energy meetings. Secondly, things to consider for a monday morning weekly kickoff and lastly what can you do at the end of the week that actually sets you up for the next week.
1) High Energy Meetings
The thing about virtual meetings, is that any bad practice we had in physical meetings in some ways gets exacerbated or the problem becomes bigger when we are virtual.
Now when we’re doing our physical meeting there should be an agenda, which clearly includes an outcome for why you’re even having the meeting in the first place. Because if the outcomes aren’t clear, then it kind of asks that first question… which is, do I even need the meeting in the first place. But it also then allows you, because you know the outcomes, to know who it is that you need to invite, and why you want them there.
Now clarity of outcome and structure of agenda isn’t always present in office meetings. And that doesn’t stop us attending them, but we take along a notepad or our laptop. And when we’re bored or disengaged we appear to multi-task and get on with something else.
Once we’re virtual and we disengage then we do the same, except our switch to the other thing means we might as well not be in the meeting at all. We can’t pick up on micro signals of things shifting in the room, so we don’t know when to re-engage.
If you don’t have video on for the meetings then you have very little to go on to know or guess whether people are still with you and involved.
So the thing about outcome and agenda helps you decide should you have the meeting or is there another way that you can achieve your outcome, eg Slack.
HOW LONG SHOULD IT BE?
The other thing to keep in mind is that whilst the duration of any meeting should actually be as short as possible to achieve the outcome, virtual meetings have a natural limit. 90 minutes being the maximum. And in some cases, the best thing to ask yourself is, can I split it into two to keep it short, and on point. So, really, less than an hour is good because once we get past 45 minutes, we start to hit all the problems that challenge us when we’re leading the thing which is to keep the energy there and to keep the focus and participation strong.
And yes it’s a meeting, people should be participating. If they’re not, it’s more like a presentation. So, questions to ask ourselves – are we getting participation, what level and type of participation are we getting, and are people being talked over?
RULE OF ENGAGEMENT….
Now, if we’re doing virtual meetings, and it’s voice only then yes there’s a possibility that people end up talking over one another, more than when it’s video, because if we’re paying attention, we can see the cues that somebody wants to talk. And if we do start talking over somebody, we get that feedback faster than if it was over the phone / non video.
And so it helps actually if you establish some rules for being present in the meeting. There are some meetings I have and I’m less strict on video, usually becuase I know the people very well and it’s just the 2 or 3 of us. Once number increase or we know each other less it’s different. I want the video on, I can see even though it’s small tiles I can still see the tiny changes to tell me what’s happening.
If people come on and then take the video off because you know it’s like, oh my hair I’m having a bad hair day or I’ve got distractions behind me or those kinds of things. Then I lose quite a bit of information.
Communication is made up of body language, voice and the words we use.
And one of the things we’re used to in actual meetings, is we get the whole lot, the whole hundred percent. And we get a little bit more besides because actually, we can also feel the person. Once we’re now behind the screen, depending on how much of the person we can see, we now have reduced body language and as soon as we turn video off, we don’t have that either. And then energy levels can drop and the possibility for misunderstandings also increases.
If you don’t want to look at yourself, take your tile out. However sometimes it’s good to just check, am I giving the appropriate facial recognition to what’s being said. In some remote meetings we might be on mute and so whilst we don’t want to talk over another we can register our thoughts on our face or use gestures like thumbs up.
And the other thing to remember is your energy is contagious. So if you put energy into the screen you often get energy back from people.
Now the other thing to remember is that with virtual meetings, it is actually more important to start on time. And yes, I get that sometimes there’s techie Gremlins to sort out which can delay by a minute or so. But what we tend to have as a bad habit with physical meetings is we say it starts at 10 o’clock, and you know people are still arriving with their cup of coffee and whatever about 10 minutes later.
When we go that’s okay it’s not quite so bad because we were in the room we could chat. I think when we’re virtual, it is more like okay, we start on time.
And people catch up within the first one or two minutes, because then you’re signalling. This is important. You are important. I am important we value what we’re doing together.
You also want in your meetings to try and structure it so that you have more as much interaction, as possible.
So asking questions and getting people to ask questions and telling people how they can ask questions so is it that they do raise a hand or hit the button or type in chat etc.
If you know anything about social styles. Then, bear in mind peoples social styles because now we’ve got a screen between us, that can also impact how people are so you have to bear that in mind in terms of how you are encouraging them to interact.
And the last thing is have contrast. One option if possible is to have a non-meeting day with your team. So they’re still getting on with their work but they’re not pressured into doing the meetings, be that phone calls or virtual video ones. And the other thing to say is to limit the number of back to back, video, ones that you do, because it can be more draining until you get used to it.
2) Now let’s move on to our Monday morning kickoff.
Quite often with these kinds of things we still have an agenda, but often with a kickoff on a monday morning we like to chat about what you did at the weekend.
Now depending on where you are in the world and what’s going on with variations of lockdown opening with tell me about your weekend can be a bit eek.
Sometimes that can be yeah not an awful lot happened because of what of what’s going on. Or it brings to mind, well normally on a weekend I see my family and I didn’t get to see my family, so my weekend wasn’t as great. So we kind of unwittingly start off the meeting in alow gear. and entering into a meeting with low energy. So we may or may not choose to ask about how was your weekend.
Now one thing I would definitely start a Monday morning kickoff meeting with is wins and successes, what was good about last week.
And these wins and successes, could be work context, but they could also be personal. Because this is affecting the whole of our life.
So in some cases, you know, somebody might sit there going, my work side of life last week there was some challenges that weren’t that great, but actually I solved some personal challenges and that was a win. This allows people to share more of themselves in a positive way.
And then you can move into discussing anything else that you would normally discuss in your Monday morning kickoff.
So this could be the targets for the week, the KPIs and who’s got slack or capacity and can help out.
And when people are talking about what’s going to happen in the next week. One of the things for you is to genuinely start really listen to the level of commitment, are there any underlying issues… so this is really testing your active listening skills.
WHAT TIME IS YOUR Monday Morning Kickoff?
And again, I guess this is down to flexibility. When you’re in the office it might have been a 9am meeting. And those who wanted to catch up beforehand could. The thing is we’re in a higher state of flux at the moment. In which case you might want to schedule your meetings a little later in the morning to allow people to come in and respond to anything from over the weekend. Get some headspace. I know from my perspective, first thing Monday morning my brain is gearing up for all the things I need to do, and I don’t necessarily want to be doing a meeting at nine o’clock. But 930 10 yep. I’ve covered all the bits and pieces, my headspace is there, and this is going to be great.
The other thing you can do in virtual meetings, but also in a Monday morning kickoff, is rotate the chair, give other people the opportunity to lead this.
3) Setting your meetings up for success
Now, one way that we can set a Monday morning kickoff up as high energy and motivating is influenced by how we shut down the week. So one of the things that I do, I actually do it at the end of every day, is prepare for the next day. Sure there are some days I don’t get to do it. So at the end of the day I plan the following day. And then when I start the day I quickly check email to ensure my plan still works and I’m off and running.
So at the end of the week, I create an outline plan for the next week to still hit my targets and deliverables. I also take time to reflect what were my wins and successes and learning points. Where do I need to course correct? Now on the Monday morning I’m prepared to share them I’m not having to think about it.
I’m also clear on what or where I need help and support. So again when I’m having my conversations, either with the team or having conversations with my mentor, I am already prepared. The beauty about doing this on a Friday, is it’s kind of like a close the door on work for the weekend.
The beauty of this is that my unconscious mind now knows what it’s working on. And then when I come in on a Monday morning, it’s like right here are the answers. And so you’re working with your brain. If I don’t do it on Friday then there is no shut down and my weekends get quite messy with my mind randomly popping up ideas or don’t forgets.
WHATS THE FUTURE HOLD?
Remote leadership is going to be a very very valuable skill in the coming months and years, and basically I think it’s now time to get ahead of the curve. Because remote leadership really tests your active listening. It really tests your sensory awareness, what are you paying attention? And it’s going to test your conversational and coaching skills too. I’ve been teaching remote leadership to some of my clients recently, they lovingly call this my jedi stuff. So if you want to know more do get in touch with me at bluepeapod.com.
Until the next time I hope this podcast has helped you think about what can you do to have more energetic engaged remote meetings.