I want to talk about something that I initially did very poorly when I first became a remote manager in hopes you can learn from my mistakes – Team Meetings.
When I started having my first team meetings as a team manager, I would compile & organize notes, assemble the team and talk at them for 20-45 minutes. I’d give relevant updates and at the end, I’d ask for issues and questions. The team rarely brought up topics for discussion, and likely surfed the internet most of the time. We’d adjourn the meeting, I’d walk away from my desk, feeling drained, desperately in search of fresh coffee. The meetings were held in the early morning, so you can imagine how the rest of my day went.
Luckily for my team, I’ve learned a lot since then. Here’s how I do it today.
We meet weekly on Google Hangouts. I still spend the week compiling notes and an agenda. The call is almost always opened 5-10 minutes early.
We assemble and chat for a few minutes before we start as we wait for everyone to join.
Once we have the entire team online, I get things rolling. I give a short update of anything relevant, then I move on to tell them what I’ve been working on for the week. This is kept fairly high level, and sensitive matters are not shared. I am candid though – if I’ve had a rough week, I don’t hide it. Once my update is finished, I turn the meeting over to the team.
Each member is called on to update the team on what they’ve been working on that week, how things have been going for them, etc. It’s not uncommon for someone to bring up a problem they’ve been working on, something that frustrates them or something they’ve been building. The team is encouraged to ask questions of each other and they often do.
Sometimes I do need to encourage things to be taken offline, and they are.
We can usually get through the whole meeting (11 people) in about 30 minutes.
In the remaining half hour I will sometimes bring in a guest – an executive or someone else in the company – who is working on something that the team wants to see. Suggestions are encouraged. If there isn’t a guest, we will sometimes talk in-depth about a technical issue (this part of the meeting becomes optional and I encourage only interested parties to stick around).
If there isn’t anything further, I thank them for their contributions to Pythian that week and wish them well.
Direct and indirect feedback received so far indicates that our meetings are very good and that the team enjoys them.
These days, almost without fail, I leave the meeting feeling energized, thinking about what a strong team I have and proud of their achievements. Most importantly, I think they do too.