The abrupt transition to remote work environment posed a significant challenge to many leaders. This was no different for the individual discussed in this narrative. They had spent many years honing their meeting facilitation skills and even developed an elaborate course on how to effectively lead problem-solving sessions in diverse teams. Now, they were faced with an entirely new set of hurdles with the advent of virtual meetings.
Luckily, this individual was among the early adopters of their company's newly chosen virtual teleconferencing tool. This allowed them to gradually adapt to the nuances of leading virtual meetings. However, a pressing issue was ensuring the team's connectivity both with the leader and amongst themselves. In response to this challenge, they started experimenting with different approaches, and the findings are presented here.
In the initial stages, they revisited their reference materials on productive meeting facilitation and hosting. A good number of these best practices proved to be applicable even in a virtual setting. Upon soliciting ideas from their team, they started shaping what eventually became their three standard weekly meetings.
One of the suggestions that arose from the team was the need for more interaction opportunities with the leader. They missed the spontaneous discussions that an office environment facilitated, and they sought a consistent way of addressing roadblocks or issues they faced.
In response, an idea of having an open office hour was proposed by a team member. Inspired by a previous manager's initiative, the leader implemented "Kickstart Mondays." Every Monday morning, the leader would reserve an hour with an open invitation for the team and several colleagues to join for a chat. Despite a lukewarm response initially, with consistent reminders and encouragements, the initiative gained popularity. When not utilized, the leader took advantage of this time to focus on other tasks, leading to a win-win situation.
The second meeting implemented was "Workflow Wednesdays." The regular "Wrap Up Friday" meetings revealed a trend of more task progression than completion. Initially suspected as issues with work prioritization and tracking, the meeting began by reviewing the team's todo board. However, feedback indicated a need for more detailed information to boost productivity.
The meeting then shifted its focus towards facilitating team collaboration discussions, which slowly evolved into sharing best practices and learning discussions. This combination of open discussions, mini-training sessions, and work prioritization as needed became the norm. Now, the team members take turns in setting the agenda and leading the session each week. "Workflow Wednesdays" serve as a pause to view the bigger picture and concentrate on what is most important.
Wrap Up Fridays
The third initiative undertaken was a brief status update meeting each week. Resembling a team huddle in Agile or Lean methodologies, this meeting aimed to receive weekly status updates from the team regarding their current and planned tasks. Considering its proximity to the end of the week and the planning phase for the following week, Friday was deemed the ideal day for this meeting. Hence, "Wrap Up Fridays" were born.
These meetings followed a simple round-robin format, where each person discussed their weekly accomplishments, the upcoming week's priorities, and optionally, their weekend plans. The last point aimed to cultivate a more personal connection within the team. Over time, this meeting proved invaluable in keeping track of active tasks, aligning priorities, and getting to know team members' personal interests better.
An optional "watercooler time" was later added to this meeting, offering an additional 15 minutes at the start for the team to have informal discussions before the leader joined. The meeting eventually established a steady rhythm and became a favorite among the team members.
In conclusion, these three weekly meetings—"Kickstart Mondays," "Workflow Wednesdays," and "Wrap Up Fridays"—constitute the cornerstone of effective team management in a remote work environment. They aid in maintaining team engagement and motivation, thereby enabling everyone to deliver their best work.
For readers who recognize an Agile-like approach, you're correct! This method was applied intentionally to create a culture that encourages communication, collaboration, and ongoing improvement.