Let’s face it, most people don’t like meetings. Why? Because even in the best of times many meetings are deemed “unproductive,” which translates to “a waste of time.” Yet our research continues to identify “effective team meetings” as one of the common denominators of both elite financial advisors and elite teams.
Amidst these challenging times when many financial advisors and team members are finding themselves working remotely, effective team meetings have become even more essential. But many of these team meetings must be conducted virtually as not everyone is working in the office. So how do you keep everyone engaged? How do you prevent “I’m not sure I heard you clearly,” which could mean, “I was looking in my refrigerator for the creamer for my coffee and wasn’t expecting a question to come my way.”
We are inherently social creatures, and now that we’re being isolated from everyone (not just colleagues), and working remotely, virtual team meetings take on a dual role: they keep everyone connected on a social level (people even miss seeing that person who always got on their nerves) and, if conducted properly, they enhance the overall effectiveness of the team.
We have discovered that there are 7 components to holding effective virtual team meetings —
1. Make certain everyone has the proper technology
It’s easy to assume that everyone with internet access has the ability for video conferencing. Never assume. This crisis has taken Zoom from a 5-star rating to 1-star due to the increased volume, forcing my daughter Amy’s pharmaceutical firm to switch to Microsoft Teams. We use Webex, but you want to make certain everyone has a webcam with a microphone that functions. Laptops already come equipped with fairly good cameras, but desktop users require a good webcam.
It’s also important that they know how to use it – a dry run can be helpful.
2. Create a PowerPoint (PPT) for the meeting that begins with an agenda
A short PPT will provide structure for your team meeting, and structure is even more crucial when meetings are conducted virtually. Everyone can read through the agenda, they can view their contribution to make certain they’re prepared, and they can formulate questions on areas that might be of concern.
The structure is what facilitates contribution, as you will want every team member participating. Make certain to keep the PPT short and to the point – keep your meetings limited to no more than 30 minutes for a larger team, 15 minutes smaller teams. Remember, less is better.
3. Frame the meeting with an opening statement (less than 90 seconds) that combines current reality and empathy
Empathy is a critical component of leadership, especially in times of crisis. Everyone is displaced, kids are out of school, family members might be having issues – this needs to be at the forefront, not an after-thought. This shows that you care about them, which will heighten both their focus and their commitment to the business issues at hand.
Open and close every virtual team meeting on a personal note that exudes empathy.
4. Personal accountability is the expectation
As outlined in your virtual team meeting agenda, each team member has to report in on their area of responsibilities. It’s your role as a team leader to make certain each team member is prepared and held accountable for performing their role to the expectations that have been established. There is a tendency for some people to attempt to wing-it. If and when this happens, it’s important that the offender is called out. If not, others will start following suit; “Why should I spend time preparing, I can just report off the cuff as well.”
5. The 5-minute rule
No topic should be discussed for more than 5 minutes as people who aren’t directly involved will tend to tune out. There are simply too many distractions for people when they’re working from home. That said, it goes without saying that no one individual, not even the team leader, should dominate these conversations – much less deliver a 5-minute lecture.
Your objective is to keep everyone engaged and if someone needs a bit of prodding for his or her thoughts regarding an issue, ask without calling this person out; “Sally, I’d be curious to your thoughts on this.”
6. Everyone leaves with action items
No different than your in-office team meetings, every team member should leave with specific action items, a to-do list, that is agreed upon by all parties. You will want everyone to feel as though they’re partnering with you in helping the business through these challenging times.
7. Email participants a meeting summary
A follow-up email summary within 30 minutes of your virtual team meeting has tremendous significance. This simple act helps strengthen the togetherness of a team that’s working remotely, it reinforces key issues discussed and outlines each individual’s action items (which enhances accountability).
Open and close your meeting summary on a personal note – remember empathy is essential for focus and motivation, especially in these challenging times.
Truth be told, these components (minus the webcam technology, etc.) should be how you’ve been conducting your in-office team meetings all along. But our new normal has changed everything and the stakes are higher today than ever before. Apply these 7 components and you’ll find that your virtual team meetings have become your most productive team meetings – we’re all in this together.