Phone Team Meetings, Valuable for Your Company

Dr Jordi Robert-Ribes on the benefits of proper and interactive phone meetings across locations and time zones


A major business movement is happening across the globe. Big companies are spreading across multiple locations rather than containing themselves to one place. While this decision makes sense for growth, managing remote workers can be a challenge to maintaining one single corporate culture, as well as efficient operations. Although the employees are distributed, they often report to the same person or are in the same project. If co-located, they would have regular formal meetings, but would also consult with team members in other geographical areas to make cohesive progress. They would, therefore, benefit from regular proper team meetings by phone.


Advantages of Phone Team Meetings

Distributed teams are becoming the norm for companies of all sizes. But, the word “distributed” need not be synonymous with “disconnected” for your team. Employees may not be in the same room, the same city, or even the same country for that matter, yet telecommunication technologies are excellent tools for them to stay connected on the job.


The key is to use the phone in effective ways to build a cohesive and efficient team. Phone team meetings are one such method – and an excellent choice too. It can be expensive and time-consuming to have face-to-face meetings if even possible at all. Yet teams need to meet regularly to share ideas to make progress on company projects and align strategies for a company to see future success. Hence the dilemma.


The phone solves this conundrum when used correctly in a business meeting. The advantages of the phone meetings are many. The phone is ubiquitous; it’s everywhere and available to anyone at any time of the day. Although employees are in different time zones, they can use the phone for a meeting. The device becomes a common link between workers.


Harmful Effects of Unproductive Team Meetings

According to a Verizon Conferencing whitepaper, 73% of meeting attendees admit to having brought other work to meetings. This high statistic demonstrates the potential inefficiency of a meeting.


An unproductive meeting has harmful effects on an organization, including frustrating workers at all staff levels, mismanagement of information, and the need to have more meetings to meet the goals. While people are attending more and more meetings, these meetings have to become more effective or businesses will continue to dole out billions of dollars annually for otherwise productive employee time at work.


Tips to Run Effective Phone Team Meetings

Leaders should establish the following framework for phone team meetings. An easy way to remember how to handle a phone meeting is “the three steps.” We call it the Roger Bannister method for meetings by phone.


Sir Roger Bannister is perhaps best known for running the world’s first sub-four-minute mile in 1954. He prepared for the race, ran it efficiently, and, as he said in an interview, “keep running after the race so that your blood keeps circulating”. The three steps are “Warm-Up,” “Run,” and “Stretch.”


Step 1: Warm-Up

Before the race, the warm-up prepares your body for the upcoming activity. The warm-up phase begins before the team meeting by phone has even begun. The leader should Send pertinent meeting information to participants beforehand. Try for at least a day prior, if possible, so that attendees can prep for the meeting and become comfortable with the material. Include a page with the photos and names of the participants who will be in the meeting. Ask participants to print out and bring all related pages with them.


Be time zone aware so that the same people do not suffer the hassle of an odd time for the meeting every time. Instruct employees at the meeting to avoid distracting environments by, for example, staying off their mobile devices and avoiding recreational places like the beach while in the meeting.


Step 2: Run

The Run phase is the main part of the virtual meeting.


Start with small talk. It creates the water-cooler effect, just as you likely would do in a face-to-face meeting. The purpose is to allow the attendees to get comfortable with one another. Another tip for easing them into the meeting is to refer to people on the printed page that shows their photos and names; go around the table and ask others questions by name. Seeing their faces on paper will generate a personalized feeling.


Aim for balanced participation. Do so by using a “1 device 1 person” rule, which means that each attendee has one phone; ban conference phones during team meetings. This technique levels the playing field in terms of communication channels and trust building, providing each person with an equal opportunity to speak during the meeting. This way the employees who are based outside of headquarters will not feel like outsiders because they don’t see people’s facial expressions.


Setting the scene. Provide each employee with a small private room for the meeting, to prevent participants from using visual cues as they would do in a standard business meeting. Do not use the Mute button either; it risks the alienation of participants. For language-fluency barriers, we use parts of our Team Bridging Program. Discourage monologues during the meeting. Instead, once one person is done speaking, he or she (or the leader) can ask who wants to speak next.


Encourage active participation in the meeting. There are many ways to do so. They can multi-task by writing notes, checking details online, or doing other related tasks. Ask constant questions too. Also, run a poll during the meeting to find out what employees think about the ideas you’re sharing with them. Count the votes to learn from the results. These activities keep them busy during the meeting and on-task, so they won’t have time to do any unrelated work they may have brought with them.


Step 3: Stretch

For you, the race is not over when you cross the finish line, and the same holds true for phone meetings; they’re not over when you hang up the phone. Stretch is the third and final part of the productive team meeting.


The leader should follow-up personally with each person at the meeting, even if just for a brief time. Other participants should follow up with additional employees if necessary to spread information about what was discussed.


If possible, follow-up a video call; as it is easy to set up for a one-on-one conversation. At a minimum, use email to correspond with employees. Ask them about work items assigned to them and get feedback on their thoughts about the meeting. Use the feedback to help make the next meeting even more effective.


The follow-up also shows employees that the leader cares about their progress and comfort levels. Knowing this can increase employee engagement and motivation in the workplace.


Please note that the above information is in addition to the standard meeting rules, which are outside of the focus of this article.


On Achieving Quality Communication

Creating a unified company despite having multiple regions for employees is easy with phone team meetings. Effective communication during the meetings is a good use of company time and money, as well as encouraging innovation between participants.


Companies such as Connecting Perspectives help executives achieve efficient conversation by offering advice for conducting virtual or face-to-face meetings.


Technology such as teleconferencing tools can make for effective meetings if implemented correctly. Having the technology alone is not enough; the above-noted tips provide a guide for leaders to use in meetings in combination with the electronic tools.


The goal is to achieve quality communication within a business, with a respectful exchange of ideas between employees in remote offices, with the common goal to achieve smart growth and the organization’s specific objectives.


About Dr. Jordi Robert-Ribes:

Dr. Jordi Robert-Ribes (PhD) is the Founder Director of Connecting Perspectives. He is an expert at enabling effective collaboration within companies. After working with the Prime Minister of Andorra setting up the FDI body, Dr. Jordi founded Connecting Perspectives and developed his own methodology for “team bridging” (fostering effective collaboration between teams and departments). It features in his ExperienTalks™ (experiential keynotes) taught at internationally renowned universities, companies and institutions. They provide tools that inspire people to collaborate effectively.




Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *