Meetings That Matter
I see so many teams having meetings for the sake of having meetings. Early in my experience leading teams I think the meetings were more for me than for the team because I wanted to make sure everything was under control. I remember countless meetings where I felt like my team was staring at me wishing I would just let them get to work. I haven’t found it realistic to do away with meetings completely but I have seen ways to improve meetings and ways to make them work for you.
“To begin to make improvements we must understand that the real problem with meetings is two-fold: they are boring and they are ineffective.” – Patrick Lencioni
So how do we start making meetings better?
- Your lack of trust in the team or fear of project success doesn’t require stealing production hours. This means stop having meetings to just talk through projects everyday. Use project management systems that the team can use to collaborate and communicate through. Basecamp is a great tool for you and your team to keep on top of projects. I use this with each of my clients and I’m able to post questions, communicate back and forth and have a great reference throughout the project without having to bog down teams with phone calls. If you need to meet on existing projects keep it 5-10 minutes. Trust your team or hire a team you can trust.
- Meet Consistently. I encourage teams to set a time each week that they can plan on meeting, even if someone is going to be late or miss it. This helps put your team at ease knowing they can plan accordingly and count on this time.
- Meet on time. Respect people, their time and show them value by starting meetings on time. Things come up but this simple principle can be one of the biggest trust builders with your team.
- The day of the week matters. Monday mornings are a great time to set aside 30 minutes to go over the week and what’s coming up with your team. Include coffee and change it up by starting this meeting off-site at a local coffee shop or breakfast spot. Set an end time to this meeting and stick to it. Have your team members come prepared to chat over what they are working on, any concerns they have with existing projects and let it be a discussion. Brainstorming meetings are best at the front end of the week and before everyone is weighed down with the demands of the projects that week. The only time I like Friday brainstorm sessions are when I don’t need a solution that day.
- The time of day matters. I try to keep the window of 11:30am – 1pm pretty open and free from meetings. This is when people are going to be getting hungry, or planning on having their lunch. Even if they aren’t hungry, they will start thinking about their lunch spot when I’m expecting them to be focused. I try to wrap up meetings by 4pm so people can spend the next hour or two wrapping up stuff for the day. If a meeting is necessary at the end of the day it’s short and a way to get my team thinking about something we need to solve tomorrow.
- Create debate. This means don’t avoid conflict and welcome opinions. You’ll increase contribution from your team when you allow healthy tension. No one likes going into a meeting knowing they are just there to take orders – we all want to be contributors.
- Environment matters. Do your weekly team meeting away from your desks and away from where you will be interrupted by other teams. When you need your team to be creative – get creative on where you meet. Get the creative juices flowing by Including field trips related and non-related to the ideas you’re trying to solve. Have a creative meeting at a random burger dive and write all your ideas on napkins. Getting teams out of a “forced” environment breaks down a lot of walls and opens up a lot of ideas.
- Everyone loves food. Have water, coffee and sugar-free drinks in the room for those longer meetings. Have some healthy snacks to keep the body fueled. You can hate on my ideas all day long but if you keep my tummy full – I’m a happy camper.
- Have a purpose. Ask yourself if the meeting is really necessary before taking up the time of everyone around you. Make sure you go in with a limited list of things you need to get accomplished. Don’t have meetings with 5 or 6 things that need solving – have 1 or 2 things on the agenda. Walk in with clear expectations – and walk out with everyone clear on their role.
Meetings should solve problems, not shout out existing ones. I can’t stand negativity and so I can’t stand meetings that just complain about what isn’t right. Address the issues briefly – then spend your efforts solving them.