By Sion Lewis, Vice President of EMEA, LogMeIn
Meetings are like marmite. Some of us love them, some of us hate them, but meetings have become a staple of corporate life. This year, the importance of the meeting has taken on a whole new meaning. Whether it’s a formal company ‘all-hands’ or a casual catch up with a colleague, meetings have been pegged as the interactions that keep a company moving when the workforce dispersed to work remotely.
Take a look at your calendar and see how your meetings are laid out. Do we have too many? Do we have enough? Who should be invited for a particular discussion? Should they be free flowing or structured? What are the outcomes and, most importantly, what is the purpose of the meeting?
Giving each meeting a sense of purpose will help answer a lot of these questions. Every meeting should have a goal and a reason for people to attend.
In the first few weeks of lockdown, many of us found ourselves on more meetings than we had ever been on. These initially felt like nice ways to connect, but slowly the fatigue set in. They became another factor of annoyance and occasionally may have felt like time wasted. But we adjusted, we found a balance and we organised our workday around meetings and video calls. We learnt to work flexibly and settle into new routines.
Office life is unlikely to ever return to that of old. As we transition out of full lockdown in many regions and countries, countless companies are embracing a new philosophy of working from anywhere. Yes, there will be an office that you are welcome to work in, but less people will feel tied to desks from 9 to 5. So, where does this leave us with meetings and our video conference? It gives us the opportunity to learn.
Make every interaction count
The water cooler as we knew it is no more. The casual brainstorm as you make a coffee in the kitchen or popping into someone’s office for a quick catch up are going to be more difficult than ever with social distancing. So, meetings must have purpose. They must be thoughtful interactions and they should work for all parties involved.
For this reason, you need to define the type of meeting before it starts. Now this isn’t to say they all have to be structured and formal, no, there can be free flowing meetings with no set agenda, but everyone should know what is expected of them before, during and after the meeting.
Setting these expectations is important and will add to a rise in productivity. If attendees know there is some pre-reading they need to do or if there is a particular section they need to present, they will be able to prepare. At the same time, putting this structure around the meeting is likely to shorten its duration and everyone can move to the crux of the discussion quickly.
Make it personal
One of the biggest things that mass remote working has an impact on is leadership and management. We have gone from gauging how someone is doing by interacting with them in the office and understanding small nuances that indicate a problem, to trying to decipher what is going on across a video conference. This has forced a shift in how we manage and lead, and, it is likely, that it will expose those who cannot adapt or are not inherently good leaders. But for those embracing the challenge, the meetings with their team are vital.
When in an office you may have felt the liberty to reschedule or cancel a one-on-one meeting because you had talked with the individual earlier and feel confident of their standing – personally and professionally. But now, that one-on-one contact is more important than ever. It shouldn’t just be when you recognise a problem or feel someone is underperforming. It shouldn’t just be about checking on the progress of a project. It needs to be regular and it needs to be a true conversation about how that individual is doing.
Whether it is a one-on-one meeting or a larger group, leaders also need to account for the circumstances that each individual on their team is dealing with. By now we are all aware that people are dealing with home-schooling children, sharing office space with a partner, taking care of parents and much more, but we should never forget to accommodate this. Those who take into account flexible schedules and distractions, will always get the best out of their employees when they find the dedicated time to work.
Leading a team and managing individuals has drastically changed and will continue on this new trajectory in the post-COVID world. Interactions will be the linchpin and leaders need to make them count.
Check your calendar
Go on, have a look at the last couple of weeks on your calendar. Lots of meetings? How were they? Did you arrange them, and did they serve a purpose? Was everyone involved necessary and engaged? And possibly most importantly, did you have a meaningful, one-on-one conversation with all of those on your team?
Based on the answer to all of these questions, and as we start to transition back into the office some of the time, I challenge you to rethink every meeting you put on the calendar and definite its purpose. This way you will get so much more out of these interactions and so will those around you.