How Can Managers Keep Their All-Hands Meetings From Spinning Out Of Control?

Managing online meetings can be difficult to do well
Managing online meetings can be difficult to do well
Image Credit: Kurt Wagner

In order to be a successful manager, you need to be a good communicator. What this means for most of us is that we need to know how to do a good job of keeping our teams up-to-date and aware of everything that is going on. One way that we’ve all found to go about doing this is to hold an “all-hands” meeting in which we invite everyone to attend. Thanks to the pandemic and its aftermath, more and more often these all-hands meeting have gone virtual. This creates a very special set of circumstances for managers. How can we make sure that we don’t lose control of these meetings when they are online?

Managing Meetings

After having made it through a global pandemic, you would think that just about every manager would have been able to perfect some basic management skills. With millions of employees still working remotely, it would be natural to think that one of these skills might have been getting our virtual meetings down to a science. This skill would, hopefully, extend to those large-scale, everyone tune-in, “C-suite talks with the troops-style” virtual meetings.

And yet. All too often these types of meetings can quickly get out of hand. There is the possibility that employees who should not be there (they’ve recently been let go) may show up.Things like this can contribute to your all-hands meetings going off the rails. Mangers need to know how to manage these types of meetings.

Tips For Managing Big Virtual Meetings

So what does a manager have to know in order to ensure that your next all hands meeting runs smoothly? The first that that you have to master is the tech that you’ll be using for the meeting. I agree that this may seem very basic, but it is important. Nothing looks less professional to the people attending the meeting than when the person leading a video call has no idea how the tech works. You need to understand that what we are talking about could be something as simple as launching into your spiel without realizing your microphone or video isn’t working, or it could be as significant as not knowing that the employees to whom you’ve just shown the door still have access to the meeting.

You will always want to make sure that you know who is on the call. This sounds that it should be simple to do, but all too often it turns out to be harder than you would think. One of the things that you need to be watching out for is what kinds of information the people in attendance will be sharing with each other while the meeting is going on. These kinds of snarky discussions can become inappropriate very quickly. One way to go about trying to head problems like this off before they show up is to decide that anonymous comments will not be allowed in meetings.

Make sure that you know ahead of time what the hard parts are going to be. Just about all of these all-hands meetings involve at least some contentious issues. Smart managers rehearse how they’re going to address them, and how they’ll respond to pointed questions. It is far better to make your mistakes and face your most hostile audience during a practice run, so that you knew how to handle yourself during the real thing.

Before the meeting starts, take a moment to put yourself in your team member’s shoes. You are going want to take a careful look at what information is going to be shared during this meeting, You need to understand how this information is going to impact the team members who hear it. This is not going to be the time for you to show a lack of empathy

Finally, you need to understand that these days nothing remains a secret for long. Whatever is discussed during this meeting is eventually going to leak. Back in the day, cautious people used to say that you should never say anything that you don’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times. You need to understand that anything that you say or do may be recorded, filmed, or otherwise transcribed and shared with the rest of the world. Make sure that you would be comfortable with that.

What All Of This Means For You

Managers are expected to have a set of basic skills that we use to perform our job. Running meetings is one of these skills. A special type of meeting that we are often called on to run is the so-called “all hands meeting” where the entire company gathers to hear important messages. Since the pandemic hit, more and more often these types of meetings have been happening online. The big question that you have to be able to answer is do you know how to run these types of meetings online?

In order to run a successful online all-hands meeting, the first thing that you are going to have to master is the technology that will be used to host the meeting. While the meeting is running, you also have to make sure that you are aware of just exactly who is on the call. Every meeting has a set of difficult issues that may come up. You are going to have to make sure that you will have answers to these questions when they do arise. You have to understand what information will be shared during the meeting and how it will affect the team members who hear it. You also have to understand that whatever you say during the meeting will eventually find its way out into the rest of the world – there are no secrets anymore.

Communication is one of the key skills that any manager needs to master. The ability to run effective meetings where information can be shared is something that all of us need to be able to do well. Running large, online, all hands meetings is a skill that is not easy to master but defiantly worth the time to get good at. Take the time to think about how you want your next online all hands meeting to go and then take steps to make sure that you can control how it turns out.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: If an online all hands meeting starts to veer off course during the meeting, what should a manager do?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As managers, it’s pretty easy to feel good about our job. I mean, we’ve worked hard to get to where we are and now we get to bask in the glow of being successful. It makes us proud when we tell others what we do for a living. Managing a team of professionals and being able to accomplish difficult projects makes us feel good about ourselves. However, this can be a slippery slope. Has your job become all consuming? Has your job taken over your life?