This is the first of a four-part series on e-leadership and its critical influence in today’s virtual teams.
Time is one of our most critical assets and we never seem to have enough of it. What is a top workplace time suck? Inefficient meetings! Ask yourself, “What does a usual face-to-face team meeting look like?” Is it that agendas are reviewed, presentations are made, action items are discussed, and next steps are planned over a designated period of time that seems like forever?
A good e-leader does not simply do what many organizations do, which is to move this same traditional meeting approach to an online arena without changing the format. An effective e-leader rethinks the meeting design to produce a real impact when engaging virtual teams and making the most of their time. Shifting the online meeting design to focus more on synthesis, analysis, and decision making, and less on presentations and information sharing, can improve engagement and result in more productive outcomes.
While face-to-face meetings can easily be held for more than an hour, lengthy virtual meetings can challenge even the best team member’s attention span and lead to lower productivity. Rethinking how teams use time requires an examination of what types of learning and work activities require real-time interaction, and which can be transitioned to a self-paced, asynchronous online environment.
You may be familiar with the concept of the flipped classroom in K-12 education – when teachers assign students to learn content as homework and use classroom time for questions and review. This approach focuses the limited time students have with the teacher on activities that require real-time interaction and instant feedback, and assigns the rest as homework. This is also an effective method when working in virtual teams outside of the classroom.
At Maher, we coach e-leaders to positively influence working time by planning ahead and creating a team agenda that coordinates the right balance of real-time and self-paced, asynchronous activities. To keep real-time meetings within a reasonable timeframe, agendas should only note activities that require real-time interaction. These can include synthesis, analysis, consensus building, decision making, and finalizing plans. Similar to teachers giving homework, e-leaders can “flip”, or transition to, reviewing informative materials, working on collaborative documents, facilitating team discussions, and brainstorming – all within an online setting that is done in between real-time meetings.
For a flipped approach to succeed, e-leaders must integrate the results of self-paced online interactions and activities into the real-time team meeting agendas. Team members will be more motivated to participate in discussions, for example, if they serve as a starting point of a future meeting agenda. Such an approach does, however, require a defined virtual team space, which we will cover later in part three of this series.
Beyond efficient time management, there are other benefits to incorporating self-paced online work activities between team meetings. Because such activities are text-based, they are a means of gathering essential expertise that may be in the “heads” of team members. Having a record of interactions allows e-leaders to perform analysis and obtain a sense of the group’s understanding, as well as determine progress on work initiatives and identify challenges and future needs. In addition, team members who miss a meeting or go on vacation can quickly get up to speed by reviewing this online content.
How does an e-leader go about changing meeting design to optimize team outcomes? By optimizing meeting agendas, and leveraging the time in between meetings for information sharing, asynchronous team interactions and work or learning activities.
In the next installment, we will take a closer look at ACTION – how an e-leader can facilitate action using self-paced and real-time work and learning activities with their teams.
Maher & Maher is a specialized change management and talent development consulting firm based in Neptune, NJ and in Washington, D.C. The Firm’s Private Sector Practice specializes in customized learning design and delivery for the Deathcare, Financial Services, Life Sciences, and Media & Communications industries, and partners with our peers to do the same for government clientele. For more information about our services, visit us at http://www.mahernet.com or call us at 1-888-90-MAHER.