Zapier started in 2011, and we've never had an office. In the last nine years, we've grown from three founders to over 250 employees, all "remote." I've written a good deal about our tips and insights for remote work culture. Now I'll show you how Zapier specifically makes it work: With a super-efficient doc for leadership meetings.
We've found that one cornerstone of running remote teams is that key stakeholders have a pulse on company updates. In Zapier's weekly executive staff meeting, for example, we align on the day-to-day and week-to-week of the company. With execs in the room, it's easy to lose track of time and veer away from the meeting's purpose, so we use a one-hour constraint as a forcing function to discuss only important topics. Ensuring the communication to and between stakeholders is both consistent and valuable holds its own set of challenges, which we try to overcome with pre-meeting prep and a tailored in-meeting process.
We've found that one cornerstone of running remote teams is that key stakeholders have a pulse on company updates.
Our executive meetings have classically run in a set of Google docs created by a Zap, but as our company started using Coda more and more, I worked with the Coda team to rebuild the process into this actionable doc so others can learn from our patterns and apply them.
Pre-meeting health check
Before every meeting, the meeting doc is sent out to the team so that everyone has time to answer the preset questions.
With these questions, I try to tackle one of the more obvious distributed team challenges—interpersonal communication. Since the team frequently communicates over Slack, the potential to miss body language cues and tone is always present. The first question directly asks stakeholders to consider on their current state. How are you feeling? How are things going? There's not a specific way to score it—I'm looking for gut reactions, like red, yellow, or green. Then I ask them if things aren't green, what's going on? What's causing your feelings to not be that way?
The meeting doc also prompts people to reflect on what is important for the next week, including top priorities. Any sort of other news, decisions, or important things that the team needs to be aware of should also be included.
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🎾 Smooth sailing
Ten minutes of silence
Another challenge we face, while not unique to distributed teams, is time management during the meetings. While I don't always require a pre-read, having updates in the doc beforehand allows everyone to catch up before the allotted time while also saving the actual meeting for discussions and decisions instead of status updates.
In each meeting, spend the first 10 minutes just reading through everybody's updates—no talking; just reading and commenting. During this time, everyone tends to comment on each others' updates. Others chime in, and the owner of the update can reply. It's a lightweight process, but it often leads to fast convergence on things that would have been discussion time for the whole staff.
In each meeting, spend the first 10 minutes just reading through everybody's updates—no talking.
By providing consistent updates and allowing everyone ample time to reflect on them, we don't have to spend air time on the little things, like "Hey have you talked to so-and-so about this one thing?"
With updates out of the way, actual discussions can focus on important decisions that needs to be made—like a go-no-go launch decision or if we want to make a significant investment in a specific area of the company.
To establish equality in what is discussed, topics are proposed during the first 10 minutes of the meeting. We make it clear that proposed topics for each meeting are open to anyone. Once topics are up, the team votes on what they think is the priority or most important topic.
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To round out each weekly staff meeting, we health check key KPIs and metrics to make sure everyone is aware of how we're doing.
Important decisions can distract us from where our attention should be—biasing our decisions to what we want to do instead of what we need to get done. By keeping KPIs and metrics front and center, we maintain the focus required to push ourselves to meet those goals while also exploring potential future KPIs.
Your turn: Run productive distributed meetings with this Coda doc.
While you're welcome to use this doc to help orient attendees to any meeting you have, the template is best suited to meetings with a specific cadence—like staff meetings with a fixed group—that are tracked consistently. With that in mind, all you have to do is
copy this doc
on your desktop to get started, and update the following pieces of the meeting template:
Step 1: Identify your regular meeting participants. Add their email below and send them a meeting reminder in