Teams of people are the basic building block of organisations.
Whether the team is the whole staff, departmental groups or project orientated, where there is more than one person in business there is a team.
One of the fundamentals of helping a teamwork successfully is communication.
Many would argue that meetings may not be the panacea for this communication and can, in fact, be a crutch that annoys employees rather than empowers them.
Even though team meetings may not be everything to communication, successful use of these meetings could be hugely significant.
Therefore, an important question to consider is: how do you make team meetings effective? Here are ten steps you must take to encourage productive team meetings.
What Is a Team Meeting?
This seems like a rhetorical question.
A team meeting is a meeting of the team. Sure enough, if you use this definition, then you can justify the calling of a meeting at any point you want to discuss an issue or relay important information.
The question is: should team meetings be used for fulfilling communication or should it have a more specific purpose?
One of the first choices you must make is what the point of meetings are.
Realistically, if something that could be dealt with in an email or on the intranet, then why waste people’s time to gather them together?
A team meeting is best used when a group of people need to analyse the work being done and take the necessary steps to improve this.
It is a place where each team member is required and actively encouraged to share ideas, not to use sit passively and receive information.
In other words, be sure of your policy with regards meetings.
Treat them as essential gatherings with specific purposes and not just something to be done because it is deemed good practice.
Great practice comes when people in the meeting know that this is a productive use of their time and they need to engage in making a difference.
The 10 Effective Choices For Team Meetings
Choice 1: Be clear who needs to attend
Who is a part of the team who needs to attend your meeting?
Being clear to the attendees for the meeting will stop the dual animosity of resentment because some must participate at not others and resentment because some are included and not others.
Potentially a minefield, identifying the team and its membership is a crucial step in making your meeting efficient.
The composition of the team is dependent on its purpose.
The reason for the team meeting should equally be aligned to this goal. As with all things related to leadership and management, having a clear vision of what you are hoping to achieve is a key to effective practice.
Do people need to know why they need to attend? Probably.
It should be explicit in the job description they have been given why attendance at your team meeting is essential.
Beyond this, the person leading the meeting needs to make clear why the meeting is being held and what it hopes to achieve.
Choice 2: Meet regularly within a set time
The set time you choose should be within working hours.
This might sound like a no-brainer, but all too often meetings run over into out of company time or when the primary business of the company is not being done.
Attendance at the meeting in these cases tends to be taken as implicit agreement for the taking of time in this way.
In fact, it is likely to cause the highest amount of resentment and make the meeting rushed and potentially unproductive.
How many people are going to dare ask a question if they know it is going to keep their colleagues at work for another 15 minutes?
The set time should also be a limit on how long the meeting should last.
Effective meetings should be timed, with participants aware of the amount of time allocated to a set item.
When the meeting nears the allotted end time, then this end time should be honoured, unless there are extreme circumstances that require it to overrun – and these are extreme circumstances understood by all.
A regular time to meet also allows people to store ideas or items for discussion at this point.
If the meetings are random and irregular, then people are more likely to feel a concern or worry is hanging over them without a chance to address it.
Choice 3: Have a clear policy for meeting use
The purpose of the meeting should be defined, and the rules for engagement laid out.
This makes it sound like a war.
However, in truth, the policy you impose will prevent people imposing their agenda on the meeting time and the reason for gathering drifting.
The policy could be that electronic devices need to be left out of the meeting; someone allocated to point out when the meeting has drifted off topic; learn to thank people for the contribution they have made, etc.
Choice 4: Have a consistent agenda
Having standard agenda items allows for the team to stay focused on the goals.
It is easy for issues to drift in and out. Somehow these problems make it to an agenda when in truth talking about the issue solves nothing that time wouldn’t achieve.
Therefore, a standard agenda focused on the outcomes of the team keeps meetings from becoming trivial.
AOB can be used for anything seen to be relevant but not covered by these standard items, but people should be expected to post these in advance and time allocated.
Choice 5: Rotate roles in the meeting
As the team leader, you don’t always have to lead the meeting.
The newest member of staff should not always be responsible for the minutes.
Rotate the chair of the meeting and rotate who takes the minutes. This will help to promote a team culture and ensure at some point all people are expected to speak.
Choice 6: Value contributions from the whole group
Everyone should feel able to engage in the meeting actively.
There should be a policy of “speak up, step back” in a meeting. If a person is quiet, then they should be expecting someone to encourage them to speak up.
If someone is speaking a lot, then they need to take the responsibility to step back and give room for others.
If they do not step back, then the chair needs to take responsibility to thank them for their contribution and assert the right for others to speak now.
This is not easy, but the goal of the most effective team meetings actively engage all members of the team in solving problems faced.
You want them involved in the solution making because they are the ones that are going to have to implement the policies agreed upon in the meeting.
Choice 7: Record actions
Taking minutes is a chore but an essential one.
There should be a standard form that is complete, and this should include the actions agreed, the people who own these actions and a date they should be accountable for delivering.
These minutes should then be the first agenda item at the next meeting – looking for feedback on what has been achieved and what still needs to be done.
Usually, your project manager is the best person to take minutes and keep a record of them.
Choice 8: Consider good communication and interpersonal skills
There need to be some good habits of talking and listening that should be practised.
For instance, it is the responsibility of everyone to stay on task. There shouldn’t be more than one conversation going on at a time.
Constructive responses to negative comments are a must for all team members, and there should be respect shown to all participants.
There should also be active listening skills employed, such as looking at the person speaking, noting the points made and responding to these, asking questions for clarification, thanking the person for something specific in what they have said.
Choice 9: Include time for successes
It is easy for meetings to become all about the problems and nothing about the successes.
Therefore, it is essential that an agenda item should be set aside for a report on positive progress or a slot where an excellent practice is shared.
People, if expected to share, should be given warning and time to prepare.
Choice 10: It doesn’t all have to be formal
It is okay for the meeting to be friendly and at times you may laugh.
This is completely fine, as you are work colleagues and potentially friends outside of work too.
There are times when it might be a good idea to mix up how the team works out problems and make it fun with the addition of role-playing or some form of competition.
It might be that you must accept that for 5 minutes at the beginning or end of a meeting people are going to want to share the gossip and the latest scandal.
This is as important to team morale as a tightly run meeting is – if kept in proportion to the business needing to be done.
Effective team meetings: the ten steps you must take – this is not a revelation to most people.
There is nothing new here that you won’t have heard before. The question is: do you follow this effective practice?
You should also check our guide to the best collaboration tools for business for an easier and more fluent team communication.