Daily meetings are essential to every thriving remote workforce. They help make sure everyone is clear on their tasks for the day, allow employees to ask questions, and promote team bonding. However, I think we can all agree that not all meetings are equal. Sometimes we inwardly groan when we see a meeting invite because we know we’re going to be bored for 30 minutes. Often it’s not a reflection on the person hosting the meeting but the delivery.
The key to any excellent meeting is to add value by conveying your message in a way that keeps participants engaged, focused, and connected. But doing this is easier said than done, especially when you’re hosting a meeting every day. How do you ensure that your participants are actually listening? How do you run the kind of meeting your team members enjoy and look forward to joining every day? That’s what we’re going to be talking about today.
Typically, daily meetings happen in the morning and set the tone for the day. We hold these meetings in the morning so employees start their day with a clear vision of what they should focus on and what they want to achieve. However, there are other elements to having a good day beyond being productive. Starting the day feeling happy, energized, and connected to your employees will also mean you’re in a better headspace and work harder.
People are often tired in the morning, and if you give them the opportunity to switch off during the meeting, they will. An excellent way to combat this is to introduce a fun activity that requires everyone’s attention. Not only does this give the participants an energy boost, but it switches their brain into an active listening mode that will continue through the rest of the meeting. Here are some ways you can introduce something fun.
The ice breaker you pick may look different depending on the type of team you have. So here are a few examples specific to new teams and tight-knit teams:
The goal of icebreakers is to have some fun and get to know your colleagues better. They also require thoughtful answers. They require you to think! They tend to be questions you’re not asked often and can’t answer automatically, which switches your brain on.
If you don’t think you have time in your meetings to run these kinds of icebreakers, there are other options to get everyone loosened up and paying attention:
Often, participants stop listening not because they’re bored but because they’ve been distracted by work. We see this happen in meetings when the host fails to send out a meeting agenda beforehand. Here’s what happens:
What’s the result? A meeting where no one is actively listening because they’re all working on their own thing while they wait for their turn to speak. It’s the equivalent to what used to happen in school when a teacher would ask your classmate what answer they wrote on their homework, and you, realizing you missed something, start altering your own homework.
By not letting your participants prepare before the meeting, you force them to prepare in the meeting. From a psychological perspective, several things are going on here. When people feel unprepared, they become anxious because they feel out of control. When people feel out of control, they will try to get that control back by taking action. In this scenario, the action is preparing during the meeting.
By contrast, if you send out a clear agenda before the meeting, people have time to prepare and can focus on listening during the meeting. They can be confident there will be no surprises when it comes to what is expected of them. Now, of course, with daily meetings, the agenda might look different from a typical meeting agenda. For less regular meetings, agendas are typically sent out several days before the meeting to give everyone time to gather information and decide what they want to say.
So what does the ideal agenda for a daily meeting look like? Here you go:
Each person should have a time limit of 30 to 60 seconds to ensure that the meeting runs on time. When people start to ramble, others switch off, and they can also become frustrated. Remember, everyone’s time is valuable, and if you let some employees run over time, it cuts into another employee’s time.
When people work from home, they have much less control over their environment. They might get interrupted by a parcel at the door, their dog might start barking, or their kid might run into the room. Most people are embarrassed by these interruptions, but they can’t be helped. An essential part of keeping everyone engaged is letting them know you care and you have realistic expectations. Employees are more likely to respect a manager and give them their full attention if they think they are being treated fairly.
At the beginning of the meeting, let your attendees know that they don’t need to apologize for these interruptions and that it’s okay for them to unmute themselves to speak, even if background noise is present.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to inject more of your human side than you would during an in-the-office meeting. Although remote working has many benefits for both employees and businesses, one of the downsides is a lack of social interaction. In other words, sometimes remote workers feel lonely. You can combat this by creating a friendly and social atmosphere in your calls. Add some humor into your meetings.
The single most important thing that stands in the way of engagement is how many participants are in the meeting. Research by Stanford University found that the most productive meetings have between 5 and 8 attendees. Sometimes we invite too many people to the meeting by accident. We think, “Oh, Sheila is connected to this. She might want to listen in”. And before you know it, the meeting is full of people who don’t really need to be there. A team meeting should be for your team and your team only. Remember, the agenda for your team meeting should be tight and repeatable. If you’re thinking of introducing new elements into your team meeting on an ad hoc basis, and these elements need new eyes, consider running a separate meeting for this. Otherwise, you can quickly lose track of what your daily meeting is about and leave your team confused.
Jeff Bezos has a “two pizza rule”. This rule states that if you can’t feed the attendees with two pizzas, there are too many people in the meeting. Use this rule to determine whether your meeting is the right size or too large. If you want to take it a step further and ensure you only have essential attendees, you can also use the “one pizza” rule.
So far, we’ve covered how you can make your meeting more engaging to facilitate active listening. The previous tips create an atmosphere where participants want to listen. Their brains are switched on, and they become actively engaged. However, as the meeting leader, there are other things you should be doing to make sure everything stays on track during the meeting. To put it another way, don’t just rely on the tips above, but promote active listening on the ground. You do this by being intentional about the communication happening in the meeting. Here are some tips you can utilize.
If you or another attendee is speaking, look for nonverbal responses coming from other attendees. Everyone should have their video turned on, so their face is visible. Nonverbal responses can tell you a lot about how someone is processing the information they’re hearing. For example, if someone looks surprised or confused, this might mean you need to expand on something further or take it up with them outside the meeting.
If someone looks like they’ve switched off, draw them back in but without calling them out. For example, don’t say “what do you think about X?” to the person who looks like they weren’t listening. This can cause them to panic and become embarrassed. They will either be forced to come up with an answer on the spot (and it won’t be their best answer), or they’ll be forced to ask a question to catch up. Either way, it makes them feel bad, and it makes them look bad in front of their peers, so avoid doing this. Instead, you can say something like, “X, you might have some advice here. I remember you saying a similar thing when…” Or some variation of this. You can bring their attention back by using their name and giving a recap of what was just said.
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