The tropical storm was approaching, and we were about to have our first in-person meeting. All the senior leaders were looking forward to finally sitting next to one another and seeing each other’s emotions up close. It was going to be an exciting evening, which also included scrumptious desserts. In a way it was supposed to be a new beginning after a year and a half of meeting virtually. The sky wasn’t looking that bad one hour before we were to convene so we were hopeful that the storm might hold off or even go offshore. And then it happened. The sky began to turn darker, moving from light gray to medium charcoal gray to black. The winds started increasing in speed and the light showers morphed into a heavy downpour. The streets became flooded in minutes and a decision had to be reached. Do we risk getting stuck on roads flowing with water or do we follow our typical way of connecting that we learned during the pandemic?
The emails went out quickly and the zoom link was set up in nano seconds. Thirty minutes before our designated time to meet, we all pivoted as if on ice skates. It was seamless. We were all meeting remotely and connecting once again on screen. Although we wished we were able to connect in person we still were able to carry through on our important work.
Five meeting pivots leaders learned during the pandemic:
1. Team Meetings Can Be Held Remotely with Success
Leaders can conduct meetings with their teams just as impactfully on screen as in person. This was one of the greatest lessons learned by businesses throughout the world. Of course, many global teams knew this already but understanding how to set up and facilitate these meetings took on a new purpose. As virtual meetings were the only game available, leaders ran with this new strategy by identifying the best remote platforms and agendas.
2. Organizations and Teams Can Make Changes Quickly
Leaders have spoken about the need to be agile for a while, but sometimes that just didn’t seem possible. We would revert back to our old ways of doing things. During the pandemic, our previous choices of running our businesses no longer worked and that forced all of us to embrace change with great speed. We learned:
- If we are fearful of trying new things we will not survive.
- Alternatives needed to be introduced quickly, even if imperfect.
- Every team member needs to be flexible with new directions even if that feels uncomfortable.
3. Gathering in Larger Numbers Is Possible Virtually
Many organizations were uncertain at first about how to run large town halls, seminars or even conventions without being in person. That thinking was crushed when we realized we had no choice if we wanted to gather. We mastered facilitation and chat boxes with precision. We not only pivoted to large screens of many faces but also learned the skills involved in breakout rooms. And breakout rooms were the best! We could connect with a smaller number of team members and delve more deeply into the projects at hand. Kudos to all the large organizations and teams who embraced gathering remotely.
4. Create A Multi-Access Path for Team Members
Another critical lesson we came to understand was the need for meeting people where they were. Some team members had an easier time with the virtual gatherings while others needed a slightly different approach. Multi-access has become the watch word for many organizations:
- Some team members may need to connect in person to perform at their best.
- Other leaders love working remotely and have had a high level of accomplishment with that format.
- Conducting meetings and gatherings both in person and virtually simultaneously can really work if the proper technology and facilitation is present.
5. Ground Rules Can Make a Huge Difference
As with all meetings, establishing ground rules on how to behave and interact with one another is essential for success. Leaders reached out to team members for suggestions about which rules mattered and implemented them. Meetings were about connecting with one another in a tight virtual window and that meant some necessary structure. Those teams who remained respectful and didn’t interrupt one another sailed through.
What additional meeting pivots did you or your team learn during the pandemic?