Whether members or leaders of remote teams (and many of us are both), we know the challenges inherent in our jobs. Churning out good work, keeping information flowing, and helping each other meet deadlines is crucial, but difficult when we aren't all cheek-by-jowl every day. We're forced to meet often, and usually virtually.
Yet, this need to meet is often resented - and for pretty good reasons. People who responded to one survey said that two-thirds of time spent meeting virtually is wasted. Admittedly this is not dramatically worse than the numbers for face to face meetings but still a concern when it's a crucial part of how you get anything done.
So why do we hate virtual meetings so much? Early in my career, I remember being in a meeting that lasted half a day. I was still new and had a younger man's stamina then. I was trying my best to listen, contribute and be a good team member. (Take a good look at your interns. They're so keen at that age.) When the meeting was over, the leader stood up and said, "Okay, let's get back to work".
I remember thinking, "So what the #@%$@%$ have I been doing for the last four hours?" The meeting, necessary and productive as it was, was seen as separate from the work of the team.
Here's the key question that bubbled up in my mind and has nagged me in the years since: If the main purpose of our having a job is to get work done, and the meetings aren't part of that work, exactly why do we have them?
The answer, of course, is that in a righteous universe, meetings are designed to help us get the work done. We need information to make things work. Good decisions need to be made. Stakeholders need to talk to one another so we're not toiling in a vacuum. Constructive discussion and even arguments need to occur in a structured environment. Human beings need to create the kind of positive relationships that lead to trust, honesty, pulling in the same direction and being willing to go out of our way for each other. For many of us, working with other people actually allows us to have fun and enjoy what we do.
Yet, people have a challenge with virtual meetings for a number of reasons:
- As previously noted, meetings have a well-deserved reputation for wasting time and being unproductive.
- Meeting virtually seems to be even less fun, because the social interaction that makes any meeting bearable is reduced and often non-existent. If the meeting is already seen as an onerous chore, sucking the fun and social component out of it is counter-productive.
MEET LIKE YOU MEAN IT
"Meet Like You Mean It - a Leader's Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings" is available on Amazon and on Kindle worldwide. It addresses both the technology available to help your virtual and remote teams collaborate more effectively as well as the timeless, proven meeting techniques that we know but too often don't practice.
- The technology we use is seen as a barrier to communication, rather than a tool to improve our collaboration. People often don't invest in the right tools, and even if they do, they fail to learn their proper use. It really doesn't matter whether it's WebEx, Microsoft Lync, Adobe or anything else. Whether you don't have the tool, or use it so poorly it fails to help get the job done, is kind of irrelevant.
Whether you buy my book, take courses or take the time to learn on your own, investing in both the right meeting technology and best practices is critical to your team's success.
What are you and your organization doing to help build great meeting skills into the culture of how you work? Have you even thought about it?
Maybe it's time to start meeting like you actually mean it.