distributed teamThis post is a part of our Vendor Spotlight blog series. As a business analysis training company, we focus on the skills needed to be successful without the use of one specific tool. However, there are many tools available to BAs that can greatly impact their efficiency, many of which are centered around one aspect of the business analysis profession. In this series, you will get insight from a resource who has specific expertise in these aspects.

This month, we asked our virtual office vendor, Sococo, to weigh in on the ever-growing virtual world and provide some tips that they have found helpful for their distributed team meetings.

Meetings with a distributed team can be a headache. We’ve all seen the conference call in real life video (if you haven’t, and you’re reading this, please spend the next 5 minutes you waste watching this video), and know that we have to work extra hard to make sure that people located across time zones stay engaged and attentive. Here are 4 tips for meeting facilitators to keep your distributed team engaged and performing:

Focus on frictionless tools

The best way a facilitator can keep a meeting with distributed team members on track is to have a great set of tools that allow people to come together and adjourn easily and without too much effort. After all, the content and context of the meeting are way more important than the mechanics of the people being able to come together and communicate.

Different types of meetings will require different tool sets. For example, a town hall meeting will only require one or two people at a time to speak and use video, but will need to allow a large group to listen and ask questions. A brainstorming session might require a small group to use video, audio, whiteboard, and shared screens. Experiment with different solutions until you find the right one for your common meeting situations.

As a tools snob, one specific bit of advice I can give you is to stay away from anything that requires more than the click of a link or launch of an app to get you in touch with your people. Real time availability and instant connection always trumps annoying ID and PIN codes.

Level the playing field

Every team has a spectrum of personalities, and when teams are working together online it’s critical for the facilitator to pay special attention to each individual’s level of engagement. Extroverted, stronger personalities can much more easily take over a meeting and leave the quieter folks in the dust. If the quiet folks give up, you lose valuable perspective in the discussion.

Instead, make sure that you’re clear on the levels of participation in the discussion by individual. You can include exercises that require each person to answer questions, rate ideas, or in some way require individual responses. Make sure the floor is shared and not dominated by a few mouthy people – as one of the mouthy people, trust me, I want to hear more about what the quiet folks have to say than listen to myself and the other big mouths (again).

Respect the backchannel

While it might seem counterintuitive to want to keep a side conversation going during a meeting, it’s actually one of the ways distributed teams have an advantage over their co-located counterparts. Backchannel conversations allow individuals in meetings to quietly and unobtrusively collaborate on short, distinct points relative to the discussion.

For example, imagine you’re in a budget meeting and you think a figure might be wrong, but you’re not sure. If you chat to a colleague in the backchannel to confirm this, you can then contribute meaningfully in the discussion. Otherwise, you’d need to either interrupt the meeting while the figure is confirmed, or take an action item to follow-up on. The backchannel actually allows for greater fluidity.

Use video when possible

At Sococo, our CEO always says, “You wouldn’t sit in a co-located meeting with a bag on your head, would you? Of course not, so turn on your video.” He’s got a point – video chat is no longer some Star-Trekkian vision of what future humans will do, it’s a critical part of communication in the digital age.

For us, context provides the important nuances of human collaboration, and anything that can be done to amplify this will give your team the basic but often overlooked advantage of understanding each other better. This of course, leads to greater efficiency, increased morale and higher performance in general.

High performing teams don’t have to be constrained to the same physical office. Leaders who put a premium on talent and are willing to think in new ways about the workforce can create amazing teams these days. The online workplace can be a rich and community driven place for the best talent to come together.

Good luck out there!

Mandy Ross
Community Director, Sococo


More on Distributed Teams

8 Virtual Facilitation Lessons Learned

Facilitating a Requirements Workshop

Facilitated Session Templates

How to Improve Remote Facilitation/Collaboration Quick Tip


 

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