Let’s be frank: Most people don’t like meetings, because even in the best of times many meetings are deemed “unproductive” or “a waste of time.” Yet our research continues to identify “effective team meetings” as one of the common denominators of both elite financial advisors and elite teams.
In these challenging times, as many financial advisors and team members are finding themselves working remotely, effective team meetings have become even more essential. They keep everyone connected on a social level, and, if conducted properly, they enhance the overall effectiveness of the team. But how do you keep everyone engaged virtually?
We have uncovered seven components to holding effective virtual team meetings:
1. Make certain everyone has the proper technology.
It’s easy to assume that everyone with internet access has the ability for videoconferencing. But this crisis has taken Zoom from a five-star rating to one-star due to the increased volume, forcing my daughter Amy’s pharmaceutical firm to switch to Microsoft Teams. We use Webex, but you want to make certain everyone has a webcam with a microphone that functions. Laptops already come equipped with fairly good cameras, but desktop users require a good webcam.
It’s also important that they know how to use it; a dry run can be helpful.
2. Create a PowerPoint for the meeting that begins with an agenda.
A short PPT will provide structure for your team meeting, something even more crucial when meetings are conducted virtually. Everyone can read through the agenda, they can view their contribution to make certain they’re prepared, and they can formulate questions on areas that might be of concern.
The structure is what facilitates contribution, as you will want every team member participating. Make certain to keep the PPT short and to the point. Keep your meetings limited to no more than 30 minutes for a larger team, 15 minutes for smaller teams. Remember, less is better.
3. Frame the meeting with an opening statement (less than 90 seconds) that combines current reality and empathy.
Empathy is a critical component of leadership, especially in times of crisis. Everyone is displaced;, kids are out of school, and family members might be having issues. This needs to be at the forefront, not an afterthought. This shows that you care about them, which will heighten both their focus and their commitment to the business issues at hand.
Open and close every virtual team meeting on a personal note that exudes empathy.
4. Personal accountability is the expectation.
As outlined in your virtual team meeting agenda, each team member has to report in on their area of responsibilities. It’s your role as a team leader to make certain each member is prepared and held accountable for performing their role to the expectations that have been established. There is a tendency for some people to attempt to wing it. If and when this happens, it’s important that the offender is called out. If not, others will start following suit.
5. Use the five-minute rule.
No topic should be discussed for more than five minutes, as people who aren’t directly involved will tend to tune out. There are simply too many distractions for people when they’re working from home. That said, it goes without saying that no one individual, not even the team leader, should dominate these conversations.
Your objective is to keep everyone engaged, and if someone needs a bit of prodding for his or her thoughts regarding an issue, ask without calling this person out. Say something like, “Sally, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this.”
6. Everyone leaves with action items.
Every team member should leave with specific action items, a to-do list, that is agreed upon by all parties. You will want everyone to feel as though they’re partnering with you in helping the business through these challenging times.
7. Email participants a meeting summary.
Send a follow-up email summary within 30 minutes of your virtual team meeting. This simple act helps strengthen the togetherness of a team that’s working remotely, reinforces key issues discussed and outlines each individual’s action items.
Open and close your meeting summary on a personal note; empathy is essential for focus and motivation, especially in these challenging times.
Matt Oechsli is author of How to Build a 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing, and Retaining Affluent Clients. www.oechsli.com