I was wary at first. My previous company gathered everyone for an all-hands meeting. This was several years back when I was working at a fast-growing software company. About 150 people crammed into a room that was meant for maybe 25. People were practically on top of each other. Disaster ahead?
You would think so. (I know I did.) Yet the disaster never came. Instead, this meeting became an important ritual. I learned how a weekly all-hands meeting can make all the difference for growing teams. Now that I am responsible for guiding the Operations and People Success team at Aha!, I can share another lesson.
For remote teams, a weekly all-hands meeting is not just a good idea — it is an essential ingredient for success.
We need the time to connect and actually see each other’s faces. And just as important, to share updates and progress on the business. Aha! is an entirely distributed company with teammates in 47 cities spanning five countries. Everyone joins our weekly hour-long, all-hands meeting — and I mean everyone — logging into the video conference from across the United States and around the world. With nearly 60 people on the team, we all look forward to seeing each other each week.
These company meetings make our entirely remote team feel close together — almost like we are in the same room.
When we do get together in person twice a year, it feels like we were never that far apart. Sure, we face the occasional meeting gaffes on our video meetings, such as a barking dog or doorbell ring. But the rewards far exceed the occasional background noise.
Here is what an all-hands meeting can bring your remote team:
An all-hands meeting is your chance to get everyone aligned. At Aha!, we spend a large part of our meeting reporting on work done against our goals and the initiatives, along with overall progress. It helps give everyone clarity on where we need to go — as well as where we need to focus more effort. By the time we wrap up, there is a sense that we have just been handed a “mission” for the upcoming week.
An all-hands meeting shuts down those dreaded silos of information. As a remote team, you need to put in the extra effort to keep communication channels open. So this is the time for leaders to speak up with openness and honesty. Make time for people to ask questions or share concerns. And when issues arise, leaders should share exactly what happened, the lessons learned, and how the team will do better next time.
Weekly video meetings give cross-functional teams the chance to connect. You want people to have a broader view of the company beyond their immediate coworkers. So give everyone a chance to have some screen time. (We do this at Aha! by rotating who is on camera as each team presents.) Also, use the time to introduce new hires so everyone throughout the company can recognize and welcome newcomers.
Rites and rituals
Once you find a format that works for your team, stick with it. It will become a familiar part of your company’s culture. This might mean asking the same quirky question to new hires or ending the meeting with a Q+A session. Keep it going by adding some celebrations to the call — work anniversaries and birthdays, as well as major company milestones like a revenue target or number of new customer trials.
All of the above comes together to create a powerful team spirit. You can also encourage folks to speak up in the chat feature on your video conference. Leaders can monitor the chat and call out comments to encourage more spirited conversations.
The more you meet with purpose, the more connections you will create. This is true whether you are just 10 people or you have hundreds, whether you are in-person or entirely remote.
Believe me, I understand if the thought of wrangling a large group of people every week sounds like it has the potential for disaster. Maybe you have even worked at a company where it was a dreaded waste of time.
But I can tell you from experience that it does not have to be. Put in the effort to have a clear agenda and focus on the team — along with the meaningful work you are doing. You will quickly find how impactful these weekly meetings can be.
How often do you think remote teams should meet?