How teams work: The General Galactic Corporation team

A new, creative approach to remote and distributed team meetings

Leading a team, especially a distributed or growing one, can be hard. Oftentimes the best advice and ideas come from other teams just like yours. That’s why we launched Lead Time: How Teams Work. This blog series profiles real teams, how they’re structured, and how they communicate through meetings and other touchpoints. Plus, each article features a top-notch leader who's got proven tips and real stories to learn from.

Meet Harper Reed, CEO at General Galactic Corporation

As CEO, Harper leads the team at General Galactic Corporation. The team of 12 is distributed across locations and time zones. Work-wise, they’re split into two distinct groups: one focused on community and marketing, and the other focused on product and engineering.

We asked Harper to share his team’s approach to meetings and what he thinks makes their approach so effective.

How a typical week is structured

Here’s what a typical week on Harper’s team looks like in terms of meetings and async communication touchpoints.

Async communication in Range and Slack

Harper’s team uses asynchronous communication for productivity-based work to keep everyone aligned and work moving forward in their remote environment. This includes daily check-ins, project updates, and async collaboration or feedback.

  • Range: The General Galactic team uses Range for daily check-ins where they share what they’re focused on, what they accomplished, and how they’re doing. It’s a lightweight way to keep track of in-progress work and what’s going on with their teammates, without having to cut into work or meeting time.
  • Slack: They use Slack for quick back-and-forths and to move quickly and nimbly when shipping new products. The team uses Slack channels that are product or project specific, and then also has a designated channel for random conversations and team banter. Harper says this is helpful because it keeps product and code channels clutter-free, while also encouraging folks to participate and have some fun.

Meetings for connecting as a team

Aside from a few standard tech-product-team-type of meetings, Harper says the majority of the time his team spends together is focused on building relationships and connections.

“Most of our meetings are about team-building. It’s about making sure we have a cohesive team in a world where, in a lot of ways, cohesion has fallen apart,” explains Harper.

  • Good morning meeting: Harper’s team starts each day together in their “good morning meeting” — a space to connect, chat, and emulate water cooler style conversation the best they can as a remote team.

“We try to keep it free-form — not too focused on any specific topic or any set length of time. People might talk about what they did the previous night or house issues or whatever’s on their mind. Sometimes it’s light. Sometimes people share something really personal and it gets intense. We try to let it be whatever the team needs that morning.”

  • Product team standups: Once the good morning meeting is over, the team takes a short break and then regroups for product team standups. There are typically 2-3 teams working on distinct product initiatives — they meet separately to go over blockers or collaborate on moving things forward. Updates are represented in GitHub projects.
  • Product planning meetings: The founders meet with product teams on a weekly basis to check in on product vision and how they’re executing towards it.
  • TGIF meeting: This weekly Friday meeting is General Galactic Corporation’s version of an all-hands meeting. The whole team comes together to share announcements, demos of new work, and tactical problem solving. They close out the meeting with a game to, again, return the focus to team-building.

Harper’s top distributed team: Make sure everyone has avenues to participate

Harper says one of his biggest learnings from remote and distributed work is that you need to challenge your existing ways of doing things. Even if they might already seem remote-friendly.

“We’ve done a lot to figure out how to make sure our distributed teammates felt like a part of the group,” he shares. “You can't always use the same tools for engagement when everyone is distributed. If you’re only using Slack or something, it’s easy for cliques to develop with people who are always online versus people who are not always online. So we've really taken a stand on to make sure there are avenues for everyone and that the team works together.”

A few ways his team has accomplished this include:

  • Calling on everyone: During TGIF, Harper makes a point to go around and ask every single attendee if they have a demo that day. This approach — instead of just asking, “Who has a demo?” — gives everyone a chance to answer without having to feel the pressure of raising a hand or jumping in to speak over video. It gets all personality types sharing, not just the louder ones.
  • Tactical meeting agendas: Harper says going around and allowing anyone to add an agenda topic during the team meeting helps because it gives everyone a chance to bring topics to the table and makes the entire team more bought into time together.
  • Being inclusive and aware of time zone differences: During meetings or team time that happen later in the day, Harper’s makes it a point to let people know it’s OK to sign off when they need to. He says it’s important to be mindful of time zones in your team’s plans.

“Our team is geographically spread,” he shares. “So when we play games at the end of our TGIF meeting, for example, it can sometimes get late for people on the East Coast. If people want to stick around, they’re welcome to. But we also let them know that if they need to split it’s definitely OK.”

Here are 6 more remote and distributed team-building ideas
How teams work: The General Galactic Corporation team
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