Remote Working: 5 tips for Meetings Don’t let measures against COVID-19 disrupt your work collaboration

Remote Working: 5 tips for Meetings

Don’t let measures against COVID-19 disrupt your work collaboration

Article by Marina Lynch — Exploring participatory leadership, collaboration and co-creation off- and online.

Day after day, my phone pushes more and more new flashes about the measures being taken to fight the spread of Coronavirus — in Italy, France and Belgium, in the UK and beyond. Infection rates started to rise, press conferences were announced, large-scale events cancelled, quarantine zones declared…

As I began to read into the details of the quarantine zone in Italy (restricted travel, working from home, 1 adult per family allowed to go the supermarket, keeping 1 meter distance from others) and learned of many other companies and countries asking people to work from home, I thought back to the days of being an employee and hearing that remote working was ‘tolerated in some cases, but not encouraged’. ‘What would my former colleagues be told now?’ I wondered as I excitedly read April Rinne’s article where she writes: “COVID-19 had already won The World’s Largest Remote Work Experiment Award.” Two days later, Belgium (where I live and work) announced that it was imposing rules to slow the spread of the coronavirus: schools and restaurants are closed for 3 weeks and companies are encouraged to ‘make working from home possible’.

But here’s the tricky part: most organisations don’t have established practices, let alone a solid structure, to enable remote working. Collaborating online is different than in the office. With so much disruption and uncertainty in our daily lives right now, I want to offer some ideas for processes that can facilitate remote working. Meetings is one place to start.

5 Tips for Remote Meetings

It may sound crazy, but I actually enjoy meetings since I started collaborating on a regular basis with both Percolab Belgium and the wider Going Horizontal community. Working with these groups has really upped my game when it comes to meetings — both online and offline.

Currently, about 90% of my weekly meetings are online: I meet with a few regular groups of people, attend online courses, invite people (often complete strangers) for Zoom chats to exchange ideas or see if there’s potential to collaborate, and more. What I’ve learned can offer guidance for others who are new to remote working — especially conducting remote, multi-person meetings. So, here, a few tips on the practices we use to get you started:

1. “Check-in before jumping-in”

This is one of my favourite one-liners from Samantha Slade’s book ‘Going Horizontal’. It is a reminder to check-in with your fellow meeting attendees on a human-to-human basis before jumping into the content of the meeting. It is a common-sense practice for on- and off-line meetings (and yet so often overlooked), though will be particularly helpful during this time when people are adjusting to the realities of working from home. A check-in is similar to the quick conversation you’d normally have when arriving to work or over an afternoon coffee — and can be as simple as asking: “How are you today?” or more work-related: “What ideas have you had about this project since we last talked?” Read more about check-ins.

Spending just a few minutes at the start of a meeting hearing every voice can help everyone focus on the work to come. (Bonus tip: checking-out at the close of a meeting with questions such as: “What (new) idea are you leaving with?” or “What is your next step?” are equally important!)

2. Clarify purpose

Another straight-forward, but often overlooked, practice is clarifying the purpose of your (online) meeting. Depending on if you are conducting a team meeting or a status update of a specific project, the purpose of your meeting will change. Make sure the purpose and outcomes of your remote meetings are explicitly stated either before or just after the check-in so that everyone is on the same page. Ideally, the purpose (or framing) is also included in the invitation to attend the meeting, so people know why they are showing up in the first place. This is especially relevant in times of change and when trying new practices.

3. Create the agenda together

During our weekly Percolab Belgium team calls, we spend about 5 minutes creating an agenda together after our check-in. Unlike teams who create and send around meeting agendas in advance, this allows us to be agile and autonomous. Each person is responsible for adding the points they want to share or have a conversation about.

Since we use Slack to organise most of our work, there are dedicated channels for our weekly online and monthly in-person meetings. Anyone can post a small reminder of any topic they want to address when we all come together (either online or in person). We find this is an easy way to help create the agenda once our meeting starts and it is a good practice in transparency since anyone can see what’s on a colleague’s mind. Of course, there’s always the possibility that a point which was not included on the Slack channel is added to the agenda. Our go-to meeting format is the Agile Agenda (I’ll post more on this soon) which adds structure to our conversation.

A recent team meeting. Not pictured: Joke J.

4. Share note-taking responsibility

Online meetings call for online note-taking. We use a running document that everyone can access and edit during our remote meetings. Some group calls I attend use Dropbox to store the notes, for others we use GoogleDocs. What’s important is that everyone has read-write access and that there’s more than one person who takes notes. I’d recommend 2–4 people take on this role, depending on the total size of the group.

5. Make decisions visually

Visuals and hand expressions can bring a playful — yet very useful — aspect to remote meetings. For instance, when a colleague has formulated a proposal which we will decide on, we opt to show visual confirmation (a thumbs up) to do a quick check that everyone is really on board. This is helpful after clarifying questions and comments have been expressed. If someone does not show a thumbs up, we know there’s still more to discuss.

With another group I meet with, we use a gesture that means ‘applause’ in sign language to show that we agree with or can resonate with what the person speaking has just said. It is a small sign of solidarity that doesn’t require verbal interruption.

An illustrated ‘thumbs up’

Turning Disruption into Discovery

In my line of work, we work towards system change — often in small steps. Now we are in a truly rare situation: when in a matter of days and weeks — all across the world — we are asked to leap. Our dominant, centuries-old system of work has been turned upside-down, yet I am convinced of the creativity and determination of humans to collaborate through this disruption. This is a wonderful time for discovery — of new human potential, technologies and ways to collaborate. The 5 practices described above are a good place to start (re)connecting in a time that may feel like it is pulling us apart.

How will you approach your next online meeting? I am curious to see what new practices and structural patterns (perhaps even new work systems) will emerge through this world-wide leap into remote working. So I invite anyone with insights or questions to start a conversation below and/or share this article among your networks.

Special thanks to Nil Roda-Naccari Noguera, Ria Baeck and An Baert for feedback on the draft, and to Tine Willemyns for the beautiful illustrations.

 

 

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3 Strategies to Change your Workplace Culture by Changing Your Meetings

Originally published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers

 

Meetings are an organization’s cultural backbone. How you run your meetings says more than you might think about how your organization functions. The bottom line is that meetings are an effective barometer for gauging how well your organization is doing in terms of productivity, innovation, and teamwork. If you dream of an engaged organization where people show up with their full creativity and potential and really share responsibility, meetings are an easy, low-risk place to grow this dream.

Most people find meetings stressful or boring and drag themselves to them. Hence, there is ample evidence to suggest people are ready for something new. When organizations are able to correct bad habits that stymie creativity, meetings become an ideal leverage point for transforming entrenched habits and beliefs in your culture.

Here are three simple meeting steps that invite everyone at the meeting to show up differently and collaboratively. With them, we tap into our collective agency and creativity. It’s a practice, which means you won’t get there by talking about it; you need to do it, reflect on how it went, and do it again. That’s how we change habits. We cannot expect it to be perfect on the first attempt.

 

1. Identify purpose and time

Ensure that your group agrees on the purpose and time of the meeting, because people have different assumptions, and this can create confusion and frustration. For example, a 60-minute meeting that focuses on clarifying the next steps of a project will be different from a 90-minute meeting that aims to find ways to improve relationships with the project partners. If you find yourself in a meeting where purpose and time are unclear, you can let the organizers know what your assumption is.

 

2. Co-create the agenda wisely on the spot

No single person can really know all that should be addressed at a meeting, nor should one person have to hold that on their own. Redistributing the responsibility of setting agenda items can be done by emphasizing the importance of initiative. The principle goes: “If there is something you see that is important to address, then write it on the agenda yourself and facilitate your agenda point.”

Identify to the group how much of the collective time and attention you want for your agenda item. Using the four agenda categories below shapes what will happen at each point and can boost intentional consciousness among the group:

  • Announcements (when you just want people to listen to you);
  • Feedback (when you want to listen to others);
  • Co-creation (when you want to work with your colleagues on something);
  • Proposals + decisions (when you want a collective decision on something).

Here’s an example of what a co-created agenda might look like (Bonus tip: Using a web-based collaborative tool, such as Google Docs or Asana, can make editable, live agendas a breeze to co-create):

 

Purpose of the meeting: the next steps for our project (60 min total)

Category Person Topic
Information/announcements Hana

Ed

Schedule update

Partner relations

Feedback/consult Paul

Marina

Results from interviews

Presenting our new service

Co-create / work together Hafid Ideas for next consultation activity
Proposal / decision making Maria Hire students?

 

Remember there is no rule that everyone needs to be in conversation all the time. You can be creative in how you run your agenda point. You can invite people to think silently for a minute before a go around or to position themselves in the room to express where they stand on a question. It’s up to you.

 

3. Run the meeting with roles

As an organization, make it a priority to designate meeting roles. Agree on who will be the meeting host, the time holder, and the note taker. It’s also critical to rotate these roles regularly if you want to develop participatory leadership. Setting an expectation around this flexibility can help streamline how roles are assigned. For example, there can be the expectation that everyone has a go at a role before anyone does it a second time or that roles rotate alphabetically by last name.

The meeting host uses the natural connections between points and the group energy to establish the order of the points. The time host supports the facilitator of each point to keep to the time they attributed to themselves, with kindness and care. The notetaker documents the essential items: points of clarity, proposals that take form, decisions made, etc.

 

Building a horizontal culture

These three strategies, used together, are geared toward a collaborative and conscious way of working. Running meetings consciously builds a horizontal workplace culture because team members feel empowered, heard, and valued for their specific contributions and reach larger, collective goals.

A group takes on shared responsibility for what is addressed, how it is addressed, and the time management. Meetings become enlivening, democratic, co-creative spaces. This is the opposite of conventional meeting culture, which revolves around one or two people.

It is not a free for all. It’s the opposite, in fact. Clear structuring elements allow self-organization to take place efficiently.

 

Building team trust

Really, though, this is all about learning to trust again. Trust your colleagues to care about things and put them on the agenda, trust people to be able to share the time, and trust that the right things for today are addressed. It’s truly liberating.

Once you get the hang of this in meetings, you’ll find it spilling over into other areas of work. You’ll be stepping forward for what you care about while trusting others to step forward with what they see and care about. You’ll be more apt to give space to your colleagues to self-organize. You’ll be able to tap into the diversity that surrounds you better. All of this brings life back into the workplace and puts flexibility and flow into the cultural backbone. In fact, reconnecting with our capacity to trust each other is part of our collective journey to reconnect with our humanity. Organizations desperately need this now, and so does the world.

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Le kata appréciatif pour progresser

Voici un article que j’ai écrit pour Revue RH, volume 22, numéro 1, janvier/février/mars 2019.

Pour continuer de progresser dans votre carrière de CRHA, avez-vous pensé au kata appréciatif?

Le kata appréciatif est une approche inspirée du kata d’amélioration proposé par Mike Rother, tirée de la philosophie du lean management. Quant à l’élément appréciatif, il est issu de l’approche enquête appréciative (AEA). Suite à mon parcours, je constate que l’utilisation jumelée de ces deux domaines d’expertise a un pouvoir optimal pour insuffler de la vitalité dans les systèmes et chez les individus.

Le kata appréciatif, composé de quatre routines constituées de questions puissantes, donne du sens, permet de formuler des aspirations profondes basées sur les forces actuelles et propose une mise en action concrète menant à l’acquisition de nouvelles compétences par l’expérimentation.

Créer du sens et se projeter dans un futur désiré

Par des questions appréciatives, l’intention est de permettre à la personne de se créer une image mentale forte, et la plus détaillée possible, de la direction vers laquelle elle souhaite aller, de ce à quoi elle aspire dans un futur idéal.

Les questions suivantes sont des exemples typiques d’un accompagnement vers un futur désiré :

  • Lorsque tu te projettes dans le futur, quelle est la plus belle vision que tu as de toi-même, et qui sont tes principaux collaborateurs?
  • Quelles sont les tâches qui t’apportent le plus d’énergie?
  • De quelles compétences crois-tu avoir besoin pour atteindre cet idéal?
  • Quels sont les indicateurs qui te permettront de dire que tu as atteint ton objectif?

Découvrir une perspective à 360 degrés de sa propre réalité

Par cette deuxième routine, le professionnel est appelé à donner des exemples réels et documentés de sa situation. Il peut s’agir de résultats probants obtenus à la suite de projets réalisés dans un passé récent, d’une évaluation annuelle, de courriels de félicita tions ou de commentaires sur son travail, d’un questionnaire sur les forces.

Un processus réflectif stimulé par des questions appréciatives est activé pour découvrir la personne dans toute sa complexité et sa réalité :

  • Qu’est-ce qui t’apporte joie et vitalité durant tes journées?
  • Qu’est-ce que tes collègues te reconnaissent comme forces distinctives?
  • Comment décrirais-tu ton environnement?
  • Par quel type de personne as-tu besoin d’être entouré pour être meilleur?

En prenant conscience de ses forces, le professionnel pourra les utiliser comme tremplin pour aller plus loin.

Déploiement, ou le plus petit pas possible (PPPP)

La routine de la mise en action permet de faire le plus petit pas possible en direction de l’objectif établi. Voici deux exemples de questions pour amorcer le mouvement :

  • Que penses-tu pouvoir mettre en action dès maintenant?
  • Qui peux-tu solliciter pour t’aider à atteindre ta prochaine cible?

Les avantages acquis à cette étape sont très encourageants pour le professionnel qui célèbre plusieurs petites victoires, des succès le menant vers la réalisation de son futur rêvé. Il est important, comme dans tout processus, de souligner les réalisations du « coaché » qui le rapprochent de son objectif professionnel.

Design, ou routine d’expérimentation

Routine dynamique et stimulante, le design est le terrain de jeu pour expérimenter de nouvelles possibilités :

  • Quelles opportunités vois-tu?
  • Y a-t-il un projet que tu pourrais entreprendre pour développer cette compétence dans l’action?
  • Quelles forces possèdes-tu déjà qui pourraient te servir de base solide pour développer une nouvelle compétence?

Plus on est créatif et audacieux, plus le développement sera rapide et ancré. Plusieurs boucles peuvent être nécessaires pour atteindre, par étape, les différents jalons de maîtrise d’une compétence. Un accompagnement de type coaching dans cette réflexion est un soutien pertinent et générateur d’énergie constructive pour se développer davantage (plutôt que de rester dans le traumatisme de ce qui pourrait être perçu comme un échec). Exemples de questions :

  • Que souhaitais-tu réaliser? Que s’est-il passé?
  • Qu’as-tu appris de cette expérimentation?
  • Que ferais-tu différemment, en tenant compte de cette expérience?

L’utilisation du kata appréciatif dans l’accompagnement au développement de compétences amène une énergie décuplée, un esprit créatif permettant de trouver plusieurs façons nouvelles de se développer et de l’engagement chez le professionnel. La joie d’avancer dans le succès est transformatrice.

Source : Revue RH, volume 22, numéro 1, janvier/février/mars 2019.

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