The most important meeting of my day, every day

As an organization that has had virtual teams for 12 years, NTEN is often asked how we keep staff connected, maintain high communication, and support collaboration across time zones and locations. Now that organizations are forced to move to a virtual set up, we’re fielding even more of those questions. My number one recommendation: a daily stand up meeting.

I know, I know. Before you complain that this is “one more meeting,” hear me out because this one short meeting may let you cancel a few of the others.

The “stand up meeting” is not new and wasn’t created specifically for virtual teams. The ableist name comes from the idea that the meeting would be guaranteed to remain fast if everyone had to stand. Call it whatever you want. This is a full team daily check-in. There are several ways you can adapt it to your organization or team, but here’s how we do it at NTEN.

Every day, every person

Unless someone is on vacation, out sick, or otherwise unable to join — they are presenting at a conference, hosting an event, or so on — the expectation is that wherever you are in the world, everyone dials in together. This ensures that everyone in our organization sees each other at least once a day. For a staff that is distributed and has smaller teams, it’s important to me that folks see each other across the organization, hear what others are working on, and can ask for help beyond their own team.

We hold these meetings for a few important reasons:

  1. Regardless of what team you are on or what priorities may be on your list, everyone has a chance to hear the biggest challenges and priorities for the organization every day.
  2. Priorities, support, and decisions may need to change but can do so with all staff being part of the process and allowing us to adapt nimbly as a full organization.
  3. Folks with capacity and flexibility in their day can support other staff who need help on timely deadlines or priorities.

I think it is difficult for staff to make assumptions about who might be interested in something they are working on, know who would have the best insights, or even gauge when best to ask for help if there aren’t explicit opportunities for folks to make those requests. A daily meeting like this allows staff to share what they are working on and others to indicate their interest, or for folks to ask for help and others to offer support.

Keep it focused

This is not an open agenda staff meeting. And this isn’t just for casual chit chat. Of course, keeping space for more personal comments, jokes, and updates on our lives is a meaningful way to contribute to a close-knit culture and build relationships across the staff. It just isn’t the focus of the meeting. We have the following guidelines for what folks should say during the meeting:

  • BE SPECIFIC!
  • No calendar repeating
  • “I need help with __.”
  • Your deadlines
  • Progress and/or roadblocks
  • What is your capacity?

With 15 staff, our daily meeting takes between 10-20 minutes. It often includes staff volunteering to take the lead on something that before the meeting wasn’t on their list or a few staff shifting priorities to match organizational needs. It almost always includes laughter, jokes, and personal notes as folks share what’s going on in their lives.

Ultimately, this one quick meeting represents and reinforces so much of our culture as a team. And it allows us to operate in relationship to each other and be agile to meet the needs of our community.

As you look for ways to stay connected across your team, consider a daily meeting that gets everyone united.

Amy Sample Ward
CEO
NTEN
Driven by a belief that the nonprofit technology community can be a movement-based force for positive change, Amy is NTEN’s CEO and former membership director. Her prior experience in direct service, policy, philanthropy, and capacity-building organizations has also fueled her aspirations to create meaningful, inclusive, and compassionate community engagement and educational opportunities for all organizations. Amy inspires the NTEN team and partners around the world to believe in community-generated change. She believes technology can help nonprofits reach their missions more effectively, efficiently, and inclusively, and she’s interested in everything from digital equity to social innovation.