Member Exchange - Keys to an Effective Team Meeting

Many managers find themselves new to managing people because they’ve been promoted based on their particularly good technical skills. They may be experienced and efficient at the systematic and analytic process of managing procedures, projects or products but not all that comfortable with the thought of managing people, especially their former peers.

Although these new people managers are up for the challenge there are some fundamental aspects of managing teams which they may have taken for granted. Often new managers of teams inherit a team meeting format – a process that sets the tone for how the team functions and communicates. This format may be highly effective, but sometimes it is very coloured by the previous manager.

Being a new manager is the perfect opportunity to make your mark and running an inclusive and effective team meeting is a good start. Below are some key elements which the research indicates will create dynamic and purposeful meeting culture.

Have a Purpose :             

Why is the meeting being held? The answers to this question will inform the agenda, structure and style. It helps if the purpose is aligned to the team goals, even in a broad sense. A team meeting is also a perfect opportunity to achieve a lot of things and a chance to catch everyone up on what’s going on in the overall scheme of things – gives the team the big picture context and how this relates to the team.

Have an Agenda:            

If you have a purpose, you need an agenda. This list of things you want to cover will determine how much time can be spent on each item. If an item on the agenda requires more time than is available, it needs to be prioritised, moved to the next meeting or given a meeting of its own. Regular meetings also helps provide focus and momentum for the team.  

Encourage Participation:             

The purpose of the meeting needs to be relevant to those attending. Therefore, it’s advisable to have them participate in the discussion and involved in the decision making. A simple way of getting some participation is having different team members lead the meeting. It’s important that this role is voluntary so people are either in their comfort zone or wanting to be grown and developed in this area. There’s nothing worse than attending a meeting with a leader who is completely out of their depth.

When team members are invited to contribute ideas different perspectives emerge. When taking on roles for the meeting, participants will naturally be more engaged and take more ownership of the meeting. (A safe environment needs to exist for team members to contribute).         

Take Minutes – Distribute Promptly:      

Someone should be assigned to take minutes at every meeting (ideally someone different each time). The minutes provide a record of what was discussed and agreed to. They help keep everyone in the team aligned and set tasks and time frames for action items.

The Clock’s Ticking:       

Meetings need to start on time and finish on time. Avoid recapping for people who are late, as this indicates that lateness is OK. Update them after the meeting. Timeliness also relates to following the agenda and being purposeful.

Broaden the View:         

Always provide people a good fundamental understanding of where the business is going. Don't just provide a cursory statement like, "Everything’s good". Go into detail. The better informed your team, the better decisions they'll make. Avoid the temptation to launch into long diatribes with too much information. It’s about getting the broader view of what’s happening within the whole business.

Think Outside the Box:                 

Effective Team meetings can double as a “training” tool. Properly conducted team meetings are a forum for continuous improvement. Always look for ways to improve performance by carving out time on the agenda to discuss tools, skills, books, articles and even videos aimed at sparking new ideas or improving processes.

Celebrate Successes:     

Team meetings provide an excellent opportunity to acknowledge successes for the whole team and individual contributions. Team members are more likely to proactively contribute to tasks and roles if their contribution is valued and appreciated. It doesn’t always need to be a big deal, a simple thanks for specific rather than general contributions will usually do. The key is to be genuine and specific – that way it feels personal.

Have some Fun:              

A simple way of building and maintaining rapport within the team is to have some fun together. Although team meetings need to be purposeful, having personality, a few laughs and celebrating successes all contribute to the effectiveness of a team meeting and connection between team members.

These suggestions and recommendations need to be adapted within the context of your work environment and how your teams and structures are organised. As managers you may also like to get buy-in from your team members who may also have good ideas of what would work well in your context. The key is to make the meetings relevant and give them your flavour – it’s a great way to establish your own management style.