How often have you been in an online meeting that ended in chaos? As our working days have become mostly virtual, the need for better meetings is more obvious than ever.
Meeting and collaborating online is tricky. We humans evolved to work with other people in groups, face-to-face. We're good at reading nonverbal cues, which makes in-person meetings more fluid and less stressful. Seeing someone on camera, you miss those cues.
Not only that, but meeting online also limits communication in that only a few people get to talk. When you want to chime in, it's difficult to make yourself heard. You run the risk of talking over someone else, or not communicating your point clearly because you feel pressured to finish what you want to say. And if you're introverted? Then the extroverts will likely jump ahead of you and make their voice heard first.
There is a way to make remote meetings not a giant waste of time, but as a facilitator you need to step up your game. In-person meetings tend to be more organic than their online counterparts, so you need to make sure you bring your best tools.
One such tool is the Me-We-Us framework, which plays to the strengths of remote work. Not only does it streamline group discussions, but it also allows for the time and mental space to do deep thinking.
How to use the Me-We-Us framework
Using the framework is fairly straightforward. After introducing the framework to the participants, the meeting is divided into three parts: me-time, we-time, and us-time.
The three phases for more engaged meetings
Let's have a look at each one.
One of the biggest issues with online meetings is that it's difficult to make yourself heard when you're not assertive or thinking on your feet. To avoid hearing shallow ideas from just a handful of people in the room, everyone needs time to think.
During me-time, each participant works on a specific task for a set amount of time. Without distractions and with the focus on just one task, it's much easier to gather the benefits of deep work.
Me-time is especially useful for brainstorming. Whereas brainstorms by groups lead to less original solutions, solo brainstorming can be extremely effective. You don't feel the pressure to filter yourself; you can just let it out.
Once each participant has had the chance to think up anything they want, it's time to share. However, it can be daunting to present your ideas to a group. We-time provides a safe space.
During this phase of the meeting, small groups of people come together in a breakout room. Depending on the total group size, these smaller groups will be between 2 and 4 people.
In the we-group, each participant presents their best ideas while others ask clarifying questions, add their thoughts, and provide feedback. That makes this part of the meeting ideal to find patterns and refine ideas.
With time to think and discuss their ideas, it's much more likely that participants feel safe to share them with the entire group. So, the last step of the framework is to bring all participants back to the main room and to share their best ideas.
If the group is big, have one ambassador of each group quickly describe the best ideas they discussed. This is another distillation process, as it's impossible to reiterate everything that was said.
After the ideas from each group have been presented, us-time is the ideal moment to put things to a vote. What will the group investigate further, or what idea is so good that they want to run with it immediately? That's the question that's central in this phase of the meeting.
The benefits of the framework
There are multiple benefits of this approach for remote meetings, but the most important are:
Staying focused on a meeting you're passively attending to is difficult. But by using the Me-We-Us Formula, participants quickly switch their work context. This gives them the chance to actively participate, which leads to more engagement during the meeting.
In a business setting, using this framework allows people from any layer of the organization to come up with ideas, discuss them in a safe environment, before pitching them to the bigger group. This in itself will lead to more engagement, as employees are more likely to share and be heard.
Individual work is often of higher quality as you keep the inner critic at bay (more difficult in a group). Working alone focuses your attention on the task at hand; you can't hide behind someone else's participation.
By combining different contexts, you refine your ideas. By voting on refined ideas, the group gets to distill the best solutions.
Want to learn more about how to run a meeting using the Me-We-Us framework? Check out these resources to dig deeper:
How to run a remote workshop
This article looks at the Me, We, Us framework from an employee wellbeing perspective. By involving everyone and make them heard, you can help bring about transformation in several layers of your organization.