Team meetings: getting it together
Although you sometimes have to deliver formal briefings about particular subjects, it's important to get your team together regularly to talk about a range of topics and generally to interact with each other. Team meetings are a key to successful engagement, so it pays to get them right.
PLANNING IS KEY
Planning is key to successful team meetings. Get them in the diary early and make sure everyone knows what to expect. Pick days when most of the team are likely to be in work and encourage everyone to attend.
SET GROUND RULES
Set some ground rules – for instance, the length and format of the meeting. Don't just turn up and rush through it in an unplanned way.
GET AWAY FROM IT ALL
Where possible, go to a room away from the sound of telephones and the usual noise of the office. Every now and again, hold a lunchtime meeting and have the discussion informally over some food.
Set some time for others to share their thoughts or to update the team on what they are doing. Try to involve the people who usually don't say very much.
ROTATE THE CHAIR
Consider rotating the chairmanship of the meeting so that team members can take a turn in chairing the meeting and setting the agenda. This can empower team members to facilitate the discussion and talk about the things they want to talk about. If you then take your place among the rest of your team, avoid the temptation to steer the meeting and do most of the talking. Sit back and let the chair run the show.
Bring in guest speakers or colleagues from other teams to add some perspective to your discussion. Invite other managers to observe your meetings, or have a Q&A session with a colleague from a department you deal with regularly. Be prepared to vary your team meetings in this way – be open and responsive to suggestions.
DON’T COVER TOO MUCH
If you only have a limited amount of time and a wide-ranging agenda, consider setting a theme for each meeting so you concentrate on one or two important issues. It's better to have a productive debate about a few subjects than rushing through a long list without any discussion. This is where planning and flexibility is key – prioritise the topics you need to discuss and make the most of your time.
HOLD THAT THOUGHT
Consider having a place where team members can record topics they would like to discuss at the next team meeting. By the time the team meeting comes round in the calendar, many potential topics of conversation may have been forgotten, so a folder on a shared drive or sheet of paper on a notice board can help capture these issues.
Remember that the team meeting is not your only opportunity to engage with your team. Make regular connections with the whole team, collectively and individually. Some people prefer a one-to-one environment than a group situation, so always make sure you are giving people the opportunity to interact with you in this way.
INVITE SHORT PRESENTATIONS
Ask team members to make short presentations (around 5-10 minutes) on key topics. A degree of formality in this way will ensure they prepare properly and get used to presenting to their colleagues. It also means you don't have to do all the talking. Consider one or two colleague presentations for every meeting.
ALLOW FOR DEBATE
Always leave room for two-way communication. Don't just use the meeting to read out a series of one-way messages. Passing on messages is one thing, but do the team understand it, do they know what it means for them, do they have any questions, and are they unclear about something?
CONNECT WITH ABSENTEES
Make a note of people who do not attend the team meeting. Make sure you connect with them afterwards and run through the things you discussed. Alternatively, ask a team member to volunteer to buddy up and update colleague(s) who could not attend. Then go back and check they understand the key issues.
BE A RESPONSIBLE FACILITATOR
Encourage debate but keep it focussed and keep an eye on time. Allow challenge if it's constructive, and avoid imposing your own opinion. Give team members the opportunity to get things off their chests but try to steer the debate to a positive conclusion – look for suggestions and ideas for improvement, ask how people would prefer things to be. And pass feedback up the line.
GIVE EVERYONE THE OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK
The more vocal members of the team can sometimes dominate meetings, so always look for ways to bring in the quieter people by asking for their views or getting them to do short presentations.
Make saying thank you a priority. Be clear about achievements and ensure reward and praise are given where appropriate. A caveat is to make sure in advance that all relevant staff are included in the “praise be” segment – it can backfire if people are left out.