10 Tips to make your team meetings more effective

Traditionally, team meetings tend to gravitate around the leader’s particular style, energy level, mood, etc. They are also mostly dependent on how the leader believes things usually have to be done and are a reflection of it. In other words, team meetings are a systemic manifestation of the overall leadership style and how the day-to-day operating principles are unfolding.

You might think that’s ok, after all, the team should follow their leader, it’s the leader’s responsibility to organize them, blah, blah. Well, it doesn’t have to be this way and for the benefit of the entire team, it shouldn’t.

Here’s why this may not be the best approach:

  • Should this be the case, it means that the leader takes all the responsibility for the meetings’ outcome, decisions, roles, accountability, etc.
  • Consequently, the engagement of the team would be minimal, if any – why should anybody even bother when the boss will do it all?
  • Furthermore, their empowering level would be dramatically low, as they would feel that whatever ideas they have are probably not going to be even considered

On the other end of the spectrum, there is a team that works coherently for collective goals, shares responsibility, is being accountable as a whole, and manifests an overall natural smoothness in working together. You know – ‘smooth operator’ kind of.

Improving team meetings’ structure, procedures and dynamics can be a simple, but powerful tool to grow the overall team performance. The general architecture to be considered in doing this is to create a circular flow of energy/information/communication within the team. Here are 10 tips to help you execute this:

  • Share the responsibility for the meeting even before it starts: setting the date/time/location/channel, informing participants, proposing topics to be discussed, setting the rules of the meeting, etc., all of these tasks can be shared among team members
  • Distribute roles among team members within the meeting; some of the roles proved useful when delivering team coaching are:
    1. Timekeeper/pacer: keeping track of allotted time
    2. Facilitator: managing the general flow of the dialogue
    3. Decision driver: pulling decisions from the dialogue and confirming them with the team
    4. Coach (not the actual team coach, but one of the team members): offers each team member suggestions/options for being more effective in the following meetings
  • Keep each intervention to the point and within the allotted time – having strict limits on this may seem harsh, however, when you look at it from an effectiveness viewpoint, it’s extremely useful for the overall structure of the meeting
  • Having small doses of humour helps the positivity and the general mood; keep it to a minimum and make sure the meeting doesn’t turn into a stand-up comedy show
  • When speaking, try to look at each one and all the members, instead of looking specifically to one person or the leader
  • When discussion seems to be centred among two people, expand it by involving/asking each participant about their input on the topic
  • When discussion seems to be stuck and/or no decision is being drawn from it, a short break could be useful; additionally, a change of seating position at the table can bring new perspectives on the issue
  • Feel free to openly express how you feel – bored, unclear, hungry, etc. On one hand, it’s quite likely that other team members share your feeling and a collective decision can be made to address it
  • Always aim for clarity – when someone is going off-road and/or beside the point, use a low position such as by asking: I’m sorry, I’m kind of lost, what exactly are you trying to say more simply?
  • Ultimately, leave the meeting having a clear decision list with a timeline, who’s responsible and the first next steps; ideally have the list send by email to all members by the end of the meeting.

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