Helen Bryant

3 Asynchronous meetings that will save you time

Discover 3 asynchronous meetings that will save you time
Are you one of those people who find themselves always in meetings? That your day is spread out by a series of meetings that nearly fill the day. And then when you look over your calendar for the week, you think, when am I going to get the time to do my actual work?
I'm going to share with you three meetings that can easily be done asynchronously. By asynchronous, I mean you don't all need to be doing it in a room at the same time, but you can still get the same, if not better, results.
Watch this #HybridWorkTip to discover the 3 Meetings you can do asynchronously and save you and your team time.
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Read the transcript here

So first off, what is an asynchronous meeting? 

The synchronous meeting is you're all doing the meeting at exactly the same time. Whether it's on zoom or whether you're in a meeting room together, all of your time is taken. These meetings are brilliant for team building, problem-solving, decision-making, and individual, more personal conversations. 
Asynchronous meetings are topic-specific discussions just like you would have in a meeting but not in real-time. And they're enabled by digital tools like Teams or Slack, or maybe a project management tool. 
Benefits of asynchronous meetings
The number one thing is it saves you time because when people are working on slightly different work schedules, it means the work still gets done, but it gets done when you have time to do it. It isn't about anchoring everybody at exactly the same time.
They're useful if you work in multi-time zones or have a dispersed team, or you have a lot of flexibility in your team so that it gives people time to do their work when they're doing their work.
They're also useful because they give people more time to think. In a meeting, say it's an hour-long, the agenda can get very concertinaed and there might be a topic that needs to be explored and everybody's feeling the pressure of getting onto that next meeting. So the conversation can get squashed, and it can also be more dominated by the more extrovert types within your group. And many introverts or people who are more reflective hold back to listen to everyone else. And those voices can get missed. 
Another benefit of asynchronous meetings is that you have a record of what was said. So it's a really transparent way of collaborating and can play a significant part in helping you solve problems. Overall they can improve productivity, and they can be high-value moments of collaboration.

There are some downsides
You don't get an immediate response. That's one of the things that often people want. 'I want to know right now', so you need to be much more intentional and thinking about and planning out and designing these conversations. Now, I would say that intention is the same with face-to-face meetings, but with asynchronous meetings, you have no choice. You have to be very intentional and really focused on the outcomes that you want to achieve.
Obviously, everybody's working individually and therefore there's less time with teammates. However, if you blend these asynchronous meetings with synchronous meetings in a workflow, as you collaborate, you often find that work can move along both quickly and you get some strengthened solutions.
So what are the three async meetings that I think you could do quite easily that would save you time and would be relatively easy to put in place?

#1 The update
The first is an update. 
I've been there, when we're in a meeting and going around the room and everybody's giving an update on a particular project or where they are on delivering their results, and everybody's there for their own bit, their 'show' as it were. After their turn and, when everybody else is talking, people often tend to fade back, and if you're on a zoom call, that's the point when you might be looking at your phone or doing a few emails on the side. 
All too often updates actually don't deliver collaboration. It's just noise going around the group. and can easily become a passive exercise.
Now, I think if you think about updates, actually, the real thing that updates do is help you identify things that are working and that you might want to do more of and help people learn ideas that we're working. And it helps you do is spot issues. Often, that's what some of the group are doing, maybe the project leader or the manager of the group. Individuals are listening to these updates, trying to spot strengths and opportunities or issues and risks. 
So the way to do an update instead would be to set that up asynchronously and set up a format by which people update. It's great to use a template that everybody uses, then everyone updates and that everybody can read.
The topics you want to pull out more, maybe chat function is what issues do people see or what opportunities do people see? And then you, as the meeting leader, can look at this and look for common themes. 
Then when you come face to face, you start at that point and then suddenly the energy in the face to face meeting is all upon solving that problem or learning from each other, a new way of doing something or an insight, and then working out how to leverage it. It's a much more action-orientated discussion than the more passive 'where are we all?'.It can save a lot of time if you start there and increase the engagement of the team in that problem-solving. This works for all kinds of updates, project updates, stand-ups, and check-ins.
One thing people often say to me is one of the things they feel they get from an update is accountability, but accountability and transparency of your work and the fact that if you follow it up into a more high-value conversation, I think you maintain that engagement and you certainly maintain the accountability that people feel. That alone is not going to deliver accountability within your team, but I think can help you.

Step #2 Top-down or single person presentations

 The second async meeting that can make a difference is any top-down presentation or meeting where there is only one presenter. 
Again, we've gone into a meeting, we've all sat there. Somebody gets up the PowerPoint that goes on and that person then talks for 30 odd minutes and at the end says 'any questions?' And there are one or two questions. And with that, everybody leaves again. 
The way to do this is for the meeting owner, the person who's presenting to record their presentation. Again, if you put it onto teams or slack, think of some questions that you would want to know the answer to, or provide an opportunity for people to ask questions about which again you can answer in the chat. It saves people time. You're still presenting. They still see you. They still hear the tone of your voice, and your enthusiasm for the topic, but it means that they can all listen to it or watch it in their own time.
Now the normal pushback on this one that I get is. "how will I know they watch it?" There's a lack of trust. Now, this always makes me laugh because quite often when they're virtual, anyway, I ask if everybody has their cameras on, the answer is normally no. I point out that I can pretty much guess that people were already doing their email at the same time. They may have been there with on the system. But were they listening? And there are many more effective ways to assess understanding of your presentation than just presenteeism.
The thing about this is you can do them quite regularly because you're not pressurized by everyone's diary. Back in the day, when I was a senior leader, and if we'd had this technology, I definitely would have used this format quite frequently to talk to a large team so that could have shared updates or messages on progress without necessarily bringing everybody in for an hour-long session.

Step #3  Feedback

A third asynchronous meeting is feedback. There might be feedback on a project. It might be feedback on how you're working together. It might be feedback on the meeting. 
The more we can incorporate feedback into all different aspects of the way in which we work the more you will create a learning culture within your team, and the faster the feedback will get shared. 
Also sometimes asynchronous is a great way because it doesn't put people under pressure. You can do anonymous feedback. You can use polls, you can use either Google forms or Microsoft forms and set things up so that people can give information anonymously. You can use polls so you can score things. They are great ways of finding out how are you are doing? What are you doing well, what could you do better? And doing that asynchronously, especially if your team is spread out, and you're not together so often, can be a very effective way of raising and maintaining feedback over time.
So there you go. Three asynchronous meetings the update, the top-down or single presenter presentation, and for feedback.

Tip 1: Launch the new way of working

Now a couple of tips to help you to get this set up within the team. First, if this is relatively new to your team, you need to launch the principle of it. You have to indicate a change in direction to the way in which things are normally done because a lot of work becomes quite habitual, we do it because we've always done it. And what you're doing there is changing those habits to new routines and rituals.
You're going to have to spend a bit of time doing this. I think if it's completely new when you've never done it, it would be something I would focus on for say four to eight weeks. You need to nurture it to get it going until everybody has moved over. 
You've got to emphasise where you want the communication to be in the tool, not on email. It's all about keeping that communication transparent within the tool.

Tip 2 Encourage digital conversation

The second tip is you need to encourage conversation. You need to ask questions and have a call to action. It needs to be very clear to people what you want to happen. Big open questions, like "what do you think?" are not very effective. I like to think of it when you're opening up chat like this, especially if there's a lot of people on there, it's a bit like a marquee. You're asking a question and of course, you can't see anybody else. Many will have the feeling of going into a marquee and are going to say something and don't know what other people are going to say, and that can be scary for people.
You need to design the conversation that you want people to have. So you need to be more focused on your questions and I cannot understate how effective just saying, What do you like about this? What are the strengths? And What do you see as the issues? This will help you divide feedback into positives that you can leverage and the issues that you might need to fix. So you've got to think about the questions and the call to action that you use.

Tip 3 Vary your medium and get comfortable on video

Don't rely on writing all the time. One of the things I think we all have to get more comfortable with is talking on video. So record yourself on zoom or teams doing a simple presentation and then sharing it.
You've got to get comfortable with that. People want to see your face. They don't just want the screen-show. So always, have your face on there so people can see and sometimes just speak straight into a camera. We can all do that on our phones to record a short video and then share it.
You've just got to get comfortable. People aren't looking for perfection; you'll bring more insight and energy.
Also, consider audio files, which can be a quick and effective way of sharing feedback.

Tip 4 Nurture the way of working

The fourth tip is nurture. So you need to spend time going into the digital tools and just seeing the responses. When people comment say thank you, build on comments and discussions. The more you can encourage others to join in the better the conversation will be and the more people will participate. Just don't dominate it. 
Now just a one-word on this. A general rule of thumb is the bigger the group of people then the more nervous they are about joining in, but small teams where you already know each other, this should not be so much of a concern. You should get good async meetings going very quickly.

Tip 5 Review

The final thing to do is to keep reviewing how it's working. Finding out from your teammates, what they like, what they're finding more difficult, and working together to find the most efficient way for you to do this and make async work.
My call to action to you is to have a go. Look for a topic in your project team or in your team that you think could work well, an update, a presentation you need to share, some feedback you want to explore and have a go, see what will happen. And if you have any problems, reach out to me either here or on social, and I will be happy to help.
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Hi There!
I'm Helen Bryant

I'm a corporate trainer and coach. On a mission to share the valuable collaboration and leadership lessons to help you thrive in the new world of work.
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