How to scale company culture for distributed teams
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As the old saying goes, you only get to make a first impression once. That’s why as a new manager, your first staff meeting is so important. Chances are, employees are feeling curious (or even apprehensive) about having a new supervisor. Your first team meeting offers the perfect opportunity to put people at ease, make a great impression, and kick things off with your new team on the best possible note.
So how, exactly, do you do that? How do you ensure your introductory meeting with your new team goes off without a hitch, and sets you and your team up for success moving forward?
With a bit of preparation, some clear objectives, and a flexible meeting agenda, you’ll be ready to run your first staff meeting as a new manager like a seasoned pro.
What’s in the article…
A critical part of a successful first team meeting as a new manager is making sure you’re prepared. There are a few things you’ll definitely want to do ahead of time to ensure that your first staff meeting is a success.
You can’t say a meeting is successful if you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish at said meeting. This is why you want to set meeting goals for one-on-ones as well as your team meetings. Before your first meeting as a new manager, think about your meeting goals, whether that’s breaking the ice with your new team or talking through your first project.
While you don’t have to write a script for your meeting, you do want to have a general outline of the topics you’d like to cover.
For example: If your meeting objective is to break the ice with your new direct reports, you may want to cover topics like your professional background, management style, and leadership philosophy.
Once you know what topics you want to cover, you’ll also want to prepare a few specific talking points for each topic. Think about what topics will be more suited to a team meeting setting, and which ones might be better covered in one-on-one conversations.
For example: You may want to prepare one or two anecdotes or accomplishments to share with the group, plan an ice breaker exercise, or prepare a meeting check-in activity.
You want to work out all your meeting details ahead of time. Think about whether you’re hosting an in-person or remote meeting, where you’ll meet (a physical space or a virtual one), and who needs to be there. Be sure to share those details with your meeting attendees in your calendar invite, or as soon as possible.
If you’re feeling a little nervous or apprehensive about leading your first staff meeting, it’s ok! Doing anything for the first time can be nerve-wracking—and running your initial meeting with your team is no different.
How to handle pre-meeting nerves: Schedule some time in your calendar right before your meeting to put your mind (and nerves!) at ease. You can use this moment to go for a walk or do a few deep breathing exercises before your meeting time.
Once you’ve done your prep work, the next step in the process is actually running your first team meeting (hooray!). Here are a few pointers on how to run your first staff meeting that will help you achieve your meeting objective, connect with your team, and lay a solid foundation for a successful and productive team experience.
This is your team’s first time attending one of your meetings—and, in some cases, may even be their first time meeting you. As mentioned, there may be some curiosity, apprehension, or nerves floating around. Before you dive into your meeting content, take some time to break the ice and put everyone (yourself included!) at ease.
Icebreaker tip: Start off your meeting with a quick get-to-know you game or round of icebreaker questions.
It’s important to have a meeting agenda, but you don’t need to be so committed to your meeting agenda that you miss an opportunity to have meaningful conversations or interactions with your team. During your first staff meeting, you definitely want to come prepared with your topics and talking points. But also keep things flexible enough to let conversations, questions, or interactions unfold organically.
No one likes to be talked at for an hour straight. Look for ways to involve your team and keep them engaged in the meeting content. This will both keep them present during your scheduled time and let them know from the start that you’re prioritizing the employee experience.
For example: After you walk your team through your background, you might also go around the room and have each employee introduce themselves and their role.
It doesn’t matter how engaging your first staff meeting is, if it goes too long, people are going to have a hard time staying engaged. Try to keep things as concise as possible and aim to keep your total meeting time under an hour. If you have to go longer, make sure to schedule time for breaks.
Remember: Once you meet with your team, it’s a good idea to meet individually with your team members, too. There are different benefits that come from one-on-one meetings, and keeping that in mind will help you make the best use of each scheduled meeting.
Your first staff meeting is your first chance to introduce yourself to your team, but it’s also your team’s first chance to meet and get to know you. As such, they’ll probably have questions, so make sure to leave plenty of time at the end of the meeting for a team Q&A. You’ll have the chance to ask all of your own questions during your one-on-one meetings.
Meeting Q&A tip: Try to see this as an opportunity to get to know your new team’s challenges and concerns. You might not have all the answers to their questions, and that’s okay! Note them to come back to next time, and make sure you follow up.
Part of being an effective manager is connecting on a personal level with your team. This will make for better communication, stronger trust and respect, and ultimately, better working relationships. Building trust and authentic connections happens when people get to see who you really are. So when you run your first staff meeting, let your personality shine through!
For example: If you’re a humorous person, crack jokes. If you have a hobby you’re passionate about, talk about it. The more “you” you let your employees see, the more quickly you’ll connect with them.
When you end your meeting, you want everyone to walk away knowing exactly what’s expected of them and what comes next. Have a few next steps prepared for after your first staff meeting, and let your employees know what those are. On top of that, you might set a few next steps from whatever comes up during your meeting time.
Next step ideas: Schedule one-on-one meetings with each team member, host a training on new systems and processes, have a brainstorm for planning projects, or book a time to create some team values and principles.
Still feeling a little unsure of how to navigate your introduction meeting? Not to worry! Whether you’re just getting started with staff meetings, or looking to bring more structure to your scheduled times, meeting templates can help keep you on track. This helps you cover all your agenda items before your team meeting is over.
Here’s an example of a first team meeting agenda template to help you visualize the structure of your staff meeting, and stay on track when the meeting is actually taking place.
Once you’ve got your first staff meeting under your belt, the next thing on your agenda is determining the right meeting cadence for your team. In other words, as a new manager, how often should you plan to run staff meetings?
There’s no magic meeting count for team meetings. Some teams meet every day, some meet once a week, and some meet once a month. The frequency you’ll need to host all-team meetings will depend on your team, your objectives, and the projects you’re working on.
Scenario one: Your team has a looming deadline on a project with a lot of moving parts. So you make sure to have daily team meeting for as long as there are several time-sensitive tasks to manage.
Scenario two: You’re managing a team of introverts who feel drained after getting the team together. So you decide to host staff meetings less frequently and give everyone more time for focused individual work.
When deciding your team meeting cadence, it’s also important to balance out staff meetings with one-on-ones. Depending on the size of your team, what they’re working on, and each employee’s individual needs, you might opt to run one-on-one meetings more frequently than team meetings, or vice versa. Just make sure that you’re making time for both, because developing personal relationships with team members is equally important as the benefits of meeting as a team.
Generally, you’ll want to meet with your team at least weekly or bi-weekly. It’s important for you to stay on top of what they’re working on, but also to give them a dedicated time to raise any challenges they’re facing or share their wins. Meeting with your whole team is an opportunity for alignment and connection, maintaining that sense of collective purpose.
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