If you lead a team, of any size or any kind, you probably have a team meeting at least once a month. Maybe even once a week. Emails and voice-mails can get stuff done, but for everyone to stay on the same page, you gotta get together once in a while.
Business is still a social enterprise.
Here’s the proverbial fly in the ointment when it comes to team meetings. The spanner in the works. The speck in the soup. The stain on the wine-glass.
If you are anything like the average organization, your team is not co-located.
If you are anything like the average organization, at least some members of your team are joining the meeting virtually, over the phone.
If you are anything like the average organization, it is a pain in the rear to maintain engagement and involvement from everyone during the meeting.
I know you relate to this. I can see your heads nodding. I sense that you all have experienced this to a greater or lesser degree.
Here’s the good news for all of you long suffering hopefuls.
The first two items are not a major problem. Actually, if you stop and think about it objectively, they are a big advantage. They allow you to attract the best talent, to assemble the best team, and to access the best minds, globally.
Here’s the bad news.
That last characteristic of your team meetings that lack of engagement and involvement is a killer.
It can make or break the success of your team.
If you can’t stimulate the attention, the emotion, the action of your team members at the end of these meetings, here’s what I have found, as a senior leader who has been doing this a long time, both successfully and unsuccessfully.
It is the beginning of the end.
Don’t get me wrong. It won’t happen overnight. It may seem like everything is going fine for a while. But, over time, this lack of engagement will corrode the effectiveness and collaboration that is so critical to high-functioning teams.
Why does this lack of engagement and involvement happen on the part of your virtual team?
Because of three canonically correlated characteristics of these meetings – environment, content, technology
These three sources of disengagement and inattention are important to understand. The solutions to the issue lie in the same three sources, that’s why.
Let’s address them one by one.
The environmental reason that causes inattention and disinterest in these meetings is the competing demands for time and attention. Demands from work that needs to get done and deadlines that need to be met outside of the meeting. Demands and deadlines that cannot be missed with impunity as a result of participating actively in the meeting.
Ask your team. They will tell you this over and over till they are blue in the face, and your eyes glaze over.
That plays into and interacts inextricably with the second reason – content.
Unless the content of your meeting adds significant marginal value relative to these other pursuits that demand time and effort, the economics of attention dictate that it will flow to the activities with the steeper slope on the value curve.
Simply put, the content of your meeting needs to be competitive in terms of insight and impact.
And the third reason for the deficit of attention is the technology that enables a friction less flow of attention away from the meeting to these other competing avenues.
Specifically, text-messaging, emails, social media, the internet, audio conferencing, and….wait for it…the mute button.
You get it. The first 4 technological advances make it easy to siphon off attention because they allow parallel processing, something at which your millennial employees are especially adept. And the last 2 things allow your team to safely indulge in the first 4 subversives without risking discovery.
So, how do we break this iron triangle of collusion among these 3 hugely distracting forces of environment, content, and technology that stands in the way of mind-blowing meetings?
We need content that is relevant and impactful enough to overcome the ambient siren songs of alternative passions and obligations, using a technology platform that makes it difficult to deviate from the primary focus.
How do you do this?
Think about why people watch movies and sports with the kind of concentration and focus that should ideally be reserved for bigger and better things.
Because they see people either like themselves or like others that they aspire to be, tackle problems and challenges in their lives that are either similar to their own or relate-able for them, so that they learn more about the world and themselves, and experience the emotions of winning and losing.
Can we do the same for our team meetings?
Yes, we can. Thank you, Barack.
What might happen if you were able to invite guest speakers at your staff meetings that either do what you and your team do for a different company, or know a lot about it from their past experience, and had them talk about how they managed the challenges that they faced, in a manner that your team could learn and grow, and also experience the emotions associated with their ups and downs?
Do you think you would grab their attention, despite the 3 horsemen of the apocalypse?
Yes, yes, and yes.
First, the insights that your team will glean from such speakers will actually help them meet and exceed work expectations of them that may compete for their attention during the meeting.
Second, such speakers will lend your meeting with the extra edge it needs to render its marginal value significantly better than anything else your team could be working on simultaneously.
Third, if you can enable such speaking engagements via webcast or webinars, whereby you can periodically check for alertness and attention on the part of participants visually and through appropriate questions, you have just negated and nullified any tendency for truancy.
And, here’s the best part.
Speakers like this are all around you.
And many of them would be happy to speak for free, because of the opportunity such engagements provide them to benchmark against your organization, learn best practices, and enhance their own brand and reputation.
But, how do you find speakers like this, you ask?
You could go to websites that cater to people looking for these types of engagements. There are a few of those. Your favorite search engine can find them for you faster than I can type their names in this article, so I won’t waste your time doing that.
But, when you find them, and dig deeper into them, you will discover this.
They are meant for practitioners who speak, and train, and consult, and publish full time, for a living, not for folks like you looking for professional amateurs.
However, there is one website dedicated to creating a community for these kinds of engagements. It is the first ever engagement network, with 8 different types of knowledge sourcing engagements, offered by professionals for professionals.
It is called QuantumFly.
QuantumFly doesn’t do pokes, pins, and pics. It doesn’t send reminders of anniversaries and birthdays. It doesn’t curate news articles about your connections.
Instead, it helps you DO stuff. Like leveraging your social network connectivity to post and find engagements in your area of expertise globally. Like getting and displaying feedback on the work performed in these engagements. Like building an economically rational network of customers and providers of knowledge in all its different forms.
It will soon be the largest knowledge sourcing portal on the planet.
You should check it out http://quantumfly.com/
You can thank us later.