Six steps to run a productive meeting and build a team that gets things done
Every week I’m involved in virtual meetings and the same is true for many Everyday Innovators. If it’s not yet true for you, virtual meetings are almost certainly in your future as more teams become virtual.
Facilitating virtual meetings and making them productive takes specific skills that product managers should know. With these skills, you can run virtual meetings that don’t waste people’s time and that build trust and cohesion in the team.
To learn the right skills, I have the perfect guest as his company is all about facilitating virtual meetings. He joins us to share his “Six How’s of Great Meetings.” His name is Dan Hoffman and he is founder and CEO of Circles, an online service that provides guided video peer groups to foster deeper conversations for impactful continued professional learning and personal growth.
Dan is also a serial entrepreneur, previously the founder of M5, a pioneer in cloud communications, which ShoreTel purchased. He is regarded by colleagues as down to earth, completely approachable, and one of the brightest guys you will ever meet.
In the discussion, you will learn the Six How’s of Great Meetings, which are:
- Agendas, and
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
- [3:50] What do we need to know about culture to run a great meeting? In order to run a great meeting, you first need to understand what makes a great team and what a team culture should be. This can be difficult to do when you are used to working independently and remotely. The key to building a good team is finding a balance between psychological safety and accountability. At Circles, we call this the Learning Zone. Team members should be able to share openly with each other and build a high level of trust while still being able to hold each other accountable.
- [7:10] How does conversation fit in? A meeting is not the same as a presentation. It should be a true dialogue. Virtual meetings tend to follow a one to many model with one person in control of the conversation. We found that we needed to build our own video platform to really focus on conversation and allow everyone to look at each other at once. The focus needs to be on the interaction, not the content. Leaders don’t always have to be the ones to talk and give orders; there’s just as much power that comes from leaders who ask questions.
- [11:01] What role does presence play in virtual meetings? It’s about being an active listener and not multitasking. Let’s take an example. The Young Presidents Organization meets once per month to talk in small groups about challenges each person is having. One thing they do at the start of each meeting is a 2-3 minute body scan mindfulness exercise. It’s a great way to bring distracted personality types into the present for a meeting. We also recommend doing a check-in about halfway through the meeting to make sure that everyone is still present and hasn’t started to drift off.
- [15:49] What does participation involve? Everyone in the meeting should have equal air time — no one hogs the mic and introverts must be called on to express their ideas. The team dynamic is amplified when everyone can contribute and there’s no idea left unspoken. A good facilitator makes it easy to engage introverts who might not otherwise speak up during a virtual meeting.
- [20:19] How does a strong agenda shape a strong meeting? An agenda gives a meeting structure so it’s efficient. There are hundreds of protocols that can make up an agenda, each with its own purpose. Examples of these protocols include brainstorming and exploration of a solutions to a problem. An agenda is not just a laundry list. There are tools like Slack and Trello to do that part of the work; don’t waste time on it during a meeting. An agenda should bring a team to broader conversations, decisions, and other outcomes a team needs to achieve.
- [27:13] How can product managers become good meeting facilitators? In an ideal world, each meeting would have a separate facilitator. It’s difficult to participate in a meeting and facilitate it at the same time. The goal is to have everyone in the meeting assume the role of facilitator to ensure that the meeting stays in the learning zone and does not go over its allotted time. You might find that one person on the team is better at keeping time, while someone else is best at taking notes or keeping a record of things. When everyone has a role to play, they will feel more engaged and the team will have a better meeting as a result.
“Whatever you dream you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” – John Anster
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.