Keeping the team together in remote team meetings

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We are living through difficult times at the moment, with ‘lockdown’ and home working. One result is that many teams risk becoming (more) dysfunctional, losing productivity and profit. Some firms are having regular, remote online, team meetings to partially get round this. Remote team meetings make your team leader role harder than usual. You’ve still get the job done and keeping the team together can easily suffer.

Most face to face team meetings are badly run, online meetings can easily make this even worse. This article is about the critical element of a team that’s often overlooked (specially by introverts) and how this becomes even more of a problem with online team meetings.

But first, did you know that your DNA is only 4% different to Chimpanzee DNA? Scientists studying the human genome have recently concluded that 96% of our genome is similar to that of the Chimp (National Geographic article here).

Knowledge of monkey DNA can improve your team meetings

Scientists don’t know what some of these DNA sequences do and some scientists have described them as “junk DNA”. However “junk” DNA seems to perform an important role and some of the sequence patterns have been named “pyknons.” These “pyknons” seem to be important after all. But first your team although I don’t want to imply that you have a team of Chimpanzees!

The team glue

Good team meetings can:

  • discuss important strategic issues, like where the firm is going and how it’s doing (you do that don’t you?)
  • save time on operational issues. Telling your team about how to do something is easier than telling 5 separate people.
  • strengthen the team, adding long term value to the company.

A structured agenda when you’re having an online meeting is even more important than in a face to face meeting, specially if you want to get your more introverted team members on board. You can read more about that here, but don’t forget the even more critical (specially if you’re existing on remote meetings alone) team bonding element. Many (especially introverts) might not like this as that can seem irrelevant, but is is strengthening the team. Approached sensitively, with relevant explanation, even the most introverted team member will understand and appreciate this. Just because somebody likes working alone, doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate being part of a team.

In this time of remote working and ‘lockdown’ it’s even more important to build team bonds, as people don’t just want to focus on strategy, tactics and profits. How are you helping to replace the general chat which goes on when you’re all in an office? What are you doing, in every meeting, to help your team understand each other more?

Irrelevant discussion and DNA

Maybe that “irrelevant fluff” that seems to happen in meetings is like the junk DNA! Like the “pyknons” some of that irrelevant chatter, “fluff and junk” that gets discussed is also important (if only to your team – AND THEREFORE YOU). Your role is to ensure that this team bonding chatter occurs as a critical small part of the meeting.

3 ideas to improve your remote team meetings

These three points are important in normal meetings and even more important for remote team meetings:

  1. start and finish on time – Starting late because you’re busy shows total disrespect for the team (so does cancelling at the last minute) – however good an excuse you give.
  2. have more meetings than you expect. But much shorter and focused ones. This is good at keeping a focus on specific elements of the business, one of which is the state of your team. Several teams are having two sessions a day at the moment, where one is purely business focused and the other is a more social catch up for 15 minutes.
  3. Build in a personal section to every business team meeting. Add five minutes at the beginning of the meeting, where everybody has to answer (in about 30 seconds) two questions
    •  “one good thing that’s happened in your non working life since we last met”. It’s a small thing, which even introverts, can answer (specially if they know it’s coming). It helps the team to understand each other, and it helps focus on positive elements to start the meeting
    • “one good thing that’s happened at work since we last met”. Like the last question it’s simple, short and creates a positive focus. It also allows the team to understand what each other do. It can be as easy as “a great conversation with xyz client” to signing a new deal.

You will also enjoy reading “What’s the problem with meetings.” and “5 TIPS TO MAKE YOUR MEETINGS BETTER AND INCLUDE INTROVERTS” or listen to a podcast on this subject where I interview an expert personality profiler.

Chimp versus Human DNA

  • The amount of chimp DNA is 12% larger than it is in humans
  • In many areas of the DNA sequence, major “rearrangements” seem apparent. These account for perhaps 4–10% dissimilarity between chimps and humans.
  • Chimps have 23 chromosomes and humans have only 22 (excluding sex chromosomes for both species).

So, the physical and mental differences between humans and chimps are most likely due to the differences in purpose and function of the “junk DNA”. Perhaps your team need to talk more fluff than you!

Three ideas to improve your team meetings

This short video touches on the DNA and has three ideas to improve your team meetings.

If you liked the monkey analogy, you may enjoy this video as it’s on the monkey them too (even if I was a bit younger then)!

What’s your experience, how do your team meetings go?  

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