How To Collaborate Effectively When Your Team Is Remote or Hybrid
While much of the media focuses on employees working from home, there needs to be more discussion about the impact on managers who continue to adapt to lead both virtual and hybrid meetings.
Can hybrid or virtual team meetings be as effective as being in-person?
If you lead meetings, the problems that plague you with in-person meetings—engagement, productivity, collaboration and effectiveness—will follow you to virtual or hybrid meetings. These issues may even be amplified in a virtual or hybrid environment if not addressed.
Think about it: how do you keep someone you can’t even see engaged in your meeting? And if people have trouble brainstorming effectively when sitting around the same table, how do they do it when they can’t share a Post-it® Note or a handout? And what do you do about the person who talks over everyone else, even on a video conference?
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Tips for Effective Virtual Meetings
Fortunately, just because you need to shift to hybrid meetings doesn’t mean it’s too late to fix the issues with your in-person meetings. Here are some immediate hints and tips to help you make that shift.
1Make it Visual
Make your meeting visible so that everyone can see each other and read body language. Make “webcams on” your default for people who join online. As the leader of the meeting, watch for signs of distraction, boredom, or distress and for someone indicating they wish to speak.
If you want participation in the meeting, you should be more deliberate in engaging your participants. Keep a list in front of you of all meeting participants, and put a checkmark next to each person as they speak or you engage with them. Plan to ask for contributions from quiet people and have a plan to deal with people over-participating.
3Plan for Sharing
You need a way to share documents. Share them with the meeting invitation beforehand, and determine how to share documents with participants on the fly during the meeting.
Establish some meeting rules upfront: no cellphones, no emails, no talking over other people, and no multitasking. Agree that each person should close the door and use the “mute” function to reduce background noise.
Decide how participants will indicate they wish to speak without interrupting someone else; some platforms come with a “raise a hand” function, or you can all agree to raise your hands physically. By setting the rules with your team at the beginning of the meeting, your team has a sense of ownership over the rules and will be likelier to keep them.
5Rethink Your Agenda
You may need to rethink the meeting’s timing, duration, and purpose. Ensure every team member has a good reason to attend the meeting and understands their required contribution. Is it to share information, engage participants in a creative discussion to solve a problem, generate or evaluate options, or plan how to move forward on important tasks?
In addition, it may not be realistic to meet for extended periods and to cover many topics. Some examples of things to consider: early morning meetings may conflict with people with childcare concerns; time zones may come into play; and holding people’s attention for a long time in a video meeting is more complex than an in-person meeting. We suggest sessions last at most 90 minutes and that you have a written agenda.
6Design for Participation
When everyone is in the same room, it’s easy to figure out how to support collaboration—whiteboards, post-it notes, markers, the presentation screen are readily available and can be used to capture everyone’s attention. But when you go virtual or hybrid, it becomes a bit trickier. Tools that allow multiple people to follow and contribute at the same time become more important; and having tools that work simultaneously in the virtual and real-world significantly improve productivity.
7Solicit Help from Participants
Running a virtual or hybrid meeting involves many moving parts. As you progress through your agenda, ask a team member to be a meeting facilitator or a technology supporter. Have one person manage the logistics of those in the room, and another responsible for managing the virtual participants. Get help managing the agenda topics and time allotted, to keep you all on track. f you rotate these roles through the agenda or across your various meetings, it will keep members better engaged and help develop meeting management skills on your team.
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Seize the Opportunity to Find Better Ways of Meeting
As you adapt to new ways of meeting, there’s an opportunity for growth and learning. While it may seem daunting initially, the need to rethink how you meet is an excellent opportunity to enhance engagement, productivity, and collaboration by improving meeting effectiveness.
We meet to advance our team’s goals, solve problems, make decisions, and plan for the future together. Many tools are available to build your team’s capacity for collaboration and creative problem-solving.
If you need help navigating the shift from in-person to virtual and hybrid meetings for your team, we’d be happy to share what we’ve learned or introduce you to the tools we use and recommend to our clients. Reach out as you need.