Ty Collins, March 28, 2021
Team meetings are essential collaborative sessions for businesses. They serve many purposes: making decisions, brainstorming, sharing critical news, or even teaching. They build camaraderie, connection, and direction for your team. But, sometimes, they lose track of their purpose.
If disorganized and poorly run, they can lose their fruitfulness and instead become time-sinks or events that employees dread. The last thing you want is for your team to feel like team meetings are wasting their time and keeping them away from more important work.
You can make the most out of your team meetings by following these tips.
Sometimes a lot of the information you might share in a weekly meeting can easily be shared through another, more convenient medium such as email or a messaging app like Slack. When you send this information out to participants, they can read it on their own and save time in the meeting for discussion, strategizing, team-building, and collaboration rather than reporting.
This is especially true for meetings where your team needs to come to a decision based on source material such as statistics, reports, or other information. Instead of giving them the packet of information during the meeting, send it to them a week prior, and tell them to look it over and to come prepared to the meeting with their research-backed arguments or opinions regarding the decision.
Fruitful conversation will ensue. Your team can spend more time bouncing informed ideas and arguments off of each other and less time just listening to a grocery list of stats and announcements.
There is often a lot to do to run a productive meeting: take notes, stay on agenda, make sure everyone is heard. Team meeting roles are a great way to delegate these responsibilities to different team members, thereby making it run more smoothly while also teaching your team how to lead. The four most important roles are the leader, the recorder, the timekeeper, and the devil's advocate. If you have weekly team meetings, consider switching the roles to force team members to think differently and take on new tasks.
The Leader: In charge of creating the agenda and picking a place and time for the meeting. During the meeting, they will guide the group through the agenda and maintain a positive environment. At the end, they will state the next steps and assign action items.
The Recorder: In charge of collaborating on and sharing the agenda before the meeting. During the meeting, they will jot down action items, conclusions, and decisions. After, they will write up, organize, and distribute the notes.
The Time Wizard: In charge of ensuring the meeting stays on schedule. They assign certain timeframes to each part of the agenda. During the meeting, they alert the group members if time is running out for each part. They also manage any visual aids (slideshows, screen-share, etc).
The Devil's Advocate: In charge of challenging the team's assumptions or ideas. Even if they agree with a decision, they still ask a question that provokes thought among the group about its validity. They essentially quality test the products of the meeting. This one's the most fun.
When your team members have a responsibility during the meeting, they will be more involved. Like investors in a startup, they have a stake in its success. Therefore, engagement and efficiency will also rise when you institute team meeting roles.
Before you create the meeting agenda, ask your team for input. Maybe they have ideas they want to flesh out or brainstorms they want to conduct. Or maybe they want to spend time learning about something that can help them develop in their role. For instance, maybe you manage sales reps who really want to learn basic copywriting but haven't voiced it because they know you are busy. When you ask how they want to spend some of the meeting, they might just tell you. Best of all, when you ask for input, your team members feel respected.
Your meeting agenda should outline what your team will do throughout the duration of the meeting and what objectives they aim to achieve. It should be distributed to each team member a day before the meeting takes place.
To create a solid meeting agenda, include the following:
Meeting schedule: Besides just stating the end and start time of the meeting, try breaking the meeting down into timed subsections. For instance, maybe you share news for the first ten minutes then spend the next thirty solving a problem before leaving ten minutes at the end for questions or overflow.
Location: Nowadays, a lot of meetings are held on video conferencing platforms. Make sure everyone has access to the link.
Attendee List: Let everyone know who's coming. Also, it pays to be selective. If someone will neither gain nor contribute value by coming to the meeting, leave them off the list and let them work on their current projects.
Purpose of the meeting: Define why you are actually holding the meeting. If you cannot think of a good reason for hosting one, consider skipping it. No one wants to sit around twiddling their thumbs for an hour when they could be working to finish the day early.
Clear agenda items and objectives: Label any decisions that need to be made, problems that must be solved, or information that must be understood. At the end of the meeting, you should have completed this objective.
It's important to keep in mind that there are many purposes for holding a meeting, and you need to make it clear to your team which type of meeting you are holding as well as their role in it.
One common type is a decision-focused meeting. Perhaps you are identifying which software to purchase or deciding on your final marketing budget. During these decision meetings, your team needs to understand their roles. They are probably wondering if they have any say in the final decision or if they are just there to listen and accept. Clearly state what you want them to contribute to the conversation during the meeting. If you want them to study up and come with informed opinions to share with the group, let them know in the agenda. If it's going to be a head-down vote to decide between restaurants for the next team outing, tell them beforehand so they can look over the menus.
As a team leader, you need to create a safe environment where your team members feel heard and respected. You need to safeguard their chances to speak up and check the interrupters on your team. Some people are more comfortable speaking up in public. Some aren't. It's mostly the latter for whom you need to facilitate opportunities to talk.
To do this, you can first start by asking your team before the meeting if they have anything to share. Then, in the meeting agenda, you can make time slots for these individuals. Also, at the very end of the meeting, you can go around in a circle and give everyone a chance to say any thoughts. Rather than saying, "final thoughts?", actually call on them by name so they know it's their turn to speak. The last thing you want is for genius ideas to be hiding within the minds of the more introverted members of your team.
Your team meetings don't always have to follow the same schedule. That can get monotonous. Every once in a while inspire and educate your team with something special. That could be any of the following:
Invite a guest speaker
Watch a relevant Ted Talk
Go off-site to lunch
Celebrate someone's performance or achievement
Teach them a skill
Spicing it up is a great way to give your team members a fun break from work. Plus, it will make them look forward to your meetings.
Communication and understanding between team members is a key ingredient to an effective team, especially when it's between a manager and a direct report. To get your team talking about their feelings, challenges, and wants, ask questions like these in your monthly team meetings:
What was our biggest accomplishment this month? This is a great chance to celebrate and feel good about a job well done. Plus, it's an opportunity to reflect on your team or company values in a meaningful way. If what you accomplished aligns with a core value, mention it to the team so they further internalize it.
What was our biggest challenge this month? Every team is going to have some challenges that frustrate their progress toward their goals. Left unspoken, these challenges will continue to hamper productivity while also negatively contributing to the psyche of your team. So, get them out in the open, and figure out ways to overcome them.
What resources would help you all succeed? Many employees feel like they could do their job more efficiently if they had better access to technology and other efficiency-boosting resources. Figure out what your team wants. If it is reasonable and within the budget, think about how you can acquire it for them.
What's something we can improve in the company? People might be holding back negative feelings about the company and its culture, priorities, or strategy. If they don't voice their opinions, nothing will change, so you need to nudge them to speak their minds.
Of course, these questions will only produce aboveboard and useful answers if you have created an environment in which team members feel safe about sharing their thoughts.
As you move through the meeting, mention where you are in relation to your agenda. For instance, when you finish topic one, make it very clear to the attendees that you are now moving onto topic number two. To close out the first portion, recap what conclusions or decisions your team made. This will help everyone internalize what was discussed and also re-ignite their engagement and attention as you move onto the next portion of the meeting.
After each meeting ask for feedback from your team members. Their answers will help you consistently improve the effectiveness of your team meetings going forward. To mine for ways to improve, ask questions like the following:
What worked and what didn't?
What could we do next time that would make it more productive?
Was [agenda item X] helpful?
Was there any information we could have shared in another way?
Let your team members know that their opinions are valued. This is a team effort. And they need to be okay with telling you where your meetings need work.
If no one takes action on the plans you made during the meeting, you pretty much wasted an hour. It's not that people neglect their duty. It's more that something else comes up and they forget. So consider setting a reminder to email your team members 48 hours after the meeting to check-in to see if they have accomplished the action items. That way they will remember to do it and your meetings will actually produce tangible results.
Someone needs to send out the meeting minutes (all of the important information discussed). That way people can refresh themselves on what decisions were made, what changes they need to make to their work, and any other key details. This is especially useful for those prone to zoning out during meetings. Now they can look over what they missed in a tidy word document.
Your team is a micro-community. You all depend on one another. You all work together toward the same goals. You're at each other's backs, whether defending it or lightly nudging it forward toward growth. Your meetings are great chances to build your team values and connect as individuals — to deepen your community. So, encourage discussion, make everyone feel comfortable sharing their opinions about the company and its trajectory, and enjoy watching your team crack jokes and pitch wild and crazy ideas that just might work.
Here's more on meeting automation platforms.
Ty is the head of digital acquisition and content at Calendly.
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