This week’s guest newsletter post is written by Wendy McCormack. Wendy is the Executive Director of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA), one of the leading continuing legal education organizations in the world. You can reach Wendy at wmccormack@nita.org.

NITA transitioned to a remote workplace during the pandemic, and this has been a successful and welcome transition for our team members. With teammates in more than a dozen states, we have developed the tools to work remotely and the ability to hire the best candidate for every position, regardless of their physical location.

Every change comes with tradeoffs, and in the case of remote workplaces one tradeoff is a loss of the casual encounter in the hallway, the quick conversation that fosters a personal understanding of what’s going on throughout the company, and particularly between departments. You can’t just pop into an office unannounced to chat if that office is hundreds of miles away.

To counter the missing feedback of water cooler talk and combat the feeling of not always knowing what is happening across the organization, we piloted a new program, The 15-Minute Huddle, once a week for five weeks. Every Tuesday morning, we all gather online for a quick Teams meeting.

It’s tricky because everyone is really busy, and we had no idea if this was a good idea or not. When we first announced it, there were indeed eye rolls, and people were annoyed that one more thing was being added to their already full calendar. Nonetheless, we pushed forward.

The goals of the Huddle were to:

-reinforce shared goals
-discuss issues before they become too big
-improve knowledge among the team
-increase collaboration and teamwork

Our team is 25 people strong. The 15-minute Huddle cannot be a round-robin where everyone talks about what they are doing this week. There simply isn’t enough time and it’s also not the point. It’s not a long-term look ahead, either. This is about what is happening at NITA this week, real-time.

-What marketing pieces are hitting inboxes?
-What programs are happening?
-What podcasts are airing?
-Is there any publication or Board news?
-Does anyone have critical reminders?

Sprinkle in a brain teaser or dad joke at the beginning and the end, and you’ve got yourself a Huddle.

We followed an easy format:

-Icebreaker, brain teaser, dad joke, etc.
-What’s happening this week?
-Any critical issues?
-Any NITA news?
-Close with something fun: a fact, tidbit, etc.
-ONE MAIN RULE: Start and end on time p only 15 minutes TOPS

The best part is any team member can facilitate it. I led the first two, then invited a team member to take the lead for the third, and then they picked the next person to lead the Huddle. This gives all our team members a chance to lead, with a low risk and a high reward. We just completed our fifth Huddle and the votes are in: KEEP THE HUDDLE.

The responses from the team reflected they they really appreciated the quick face time with the team, the updates, energy and connection. Everyone agreed that 15 minutes once a week is a vastly better format for keeping us in contact rather than an hour-long monthly staff meeting.

It met the goals set out at the beginning. So we will be huddling for 15 minutes every Tuesday for the foreseeable future, and formal team meetings will be quarterly and reserved for addressing long-term goals.

NITA instituted these meetings to cope with our remote status, but I suspect that quick weekly meetings to touch base would be welcome in a traditional workplace as well. Whatever your staffing situation, go ahead and give it a try.

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