Ask any super efficient manager about their tips for success and weekly meetings will always be on their list. “Rather than being productivity killers, well-crafted meetings can help raise productivity and achieve an open culture within teams,” says Jerene Ang of HumanResourcesOnline. Team meetings are a rite of passage for a productive work week because when it comes to efficiency, communication is gold. But what happens when the scales are unbalanced, and instead of doing the work, you’re just talking about it? Here are 4 tips to help you get off the hamster wheel and back on the road to productivity.
- Agendas & Recaps: Do not, under any circumstances, go into a meeting without a written agenda. As the organizer, you should take ownership by recording the main goals of the meeting. Once the agenda is ready, email it to your group. Ask team members to review the agenda and come prepared to have a conversation. During the meeting, stick to your agenda – do not chase squirrels! If something comes up during the meeting that is not on your agenda, it will be up to you as the facilitator to decide if it’s worthy of everyone’s time; some discussions are better left to individual huddles (read more about this in our upcoming blog post, The Importance of Individual Huddles). During the meeting, assign someone to take minutes. Once the meeting is over, review the notes and email a recap to your team. This process will not only keep you on task and on time but will also serve as the basis for ownership and accountability. (See the Sample Agenda below for ideas on how to craft your next team meeting agenda)
- Transparency. This step may require a culture shift, but I promise it will be a good one. The worst thing that can happen during a meeting (besides going an hour over) is self-preservation. When a coach designs a playbook, it requires 2 things of the team: trust and teamwork. As a leader, you need to model transparency and demand it. When a team gathers for a meeting, nobody should feel like they need to hide information. To counteract this, you need to convince your team that putting everything on the table is not a risk. Business appropriate transparency helps everyone see the full picture so the right decisions can be made. In order to model this, leaders must be what they want their staff to become.
- Learn to Lead. Encouraging everyone’s voice to be heard will strengthen your position as their leader and help you all become a well-oiled machine. By allowing an appropriate amount of time for your meetings and inviting everyone to present their ideas and collaborate on solutions, you can ensure that everyone has a seat at the table. Leadership also means knowing how to run a meeting. As a manager, establish some basic ground rules. These can include:
- Be on time. If an attendee is going to be more than 10 minutes late, they should not come to the meeting. Waiting for someone or trying to catch a person up on already discussed items is a huge time suck.
- No cell phones. Educators can attest to it – so can your significant other, cell phones are distracting. Pings, buzzes, rings – merely asking your team to silence their phones is not enough. Require your team to put their devices in “cell phone prison” before the meeting starts.
- No interruptions. This may seem like a no-brainer, but cross-talk and sidebar conversations will only add frustration to your meetings.
- Less Meetings. Lack of accountability and poor process and procedures are the number one reason for superfluous meetings. Many meetings are not necessary – sometimes a “virtual meeting” is all you need to keep the ball rolling on a project. If you’re short on time, or just want to make sure everyone is on the same page, consider sending out your agenda via email. This discipline will ensure that even during tax time or conference season, your team is still delivering on what they need to deliver on.
If you were to ask your staff to describe a typical meeting, what would they say? Waste of time? Scary? Annoying? Meetings don’t have to be the worst part of your week. With a few tweaks, your meetings can become a place where teammates gather to share information and leave empowered to act on objectives.