The only way to build and maintain a strong team is through strong, consistent, communication. This is often an overlooked or neglected aspect of business management, and is easily forgotten during periods of high stress or heavy workload.
Avoid letting communication fall on the back burner by creating a regular meeting schedule – and sticking to it. Depending on the size and type of your business, daily, weekly, or monthly team meetings are an important cornerstone of a strong team.
Regularly scheduled team meetings are like Sunday dinners with a busy family. They give you – the owner – a regular forum with your staff to inform and garner support for company-wide training initiatives, announce results, establish goals and targets, or share new visions or directions. They also give your staff a forum to share feedback and air grievances. Give your staff permission to be open and honest in their discussions.
Effective Team Meetings
By now you’re probably thinking, “Sure, I hear some company’s team meetings are effective, but we tried them and it didn’t work,” or “I held regular team meetings, but after a while, no one showed up.”
There is a difference between team meetings held for the sake of having team meetings, and well prepared team meetings with a purpose.
You need to start holding team meetings with a purpose.
Establish a Schedule That Everyone Can Commit To
Scheduling is potentially the biggest challenge when trying to set up a team meeting. Often, all of your staff members are busy going in eight different directions to fulfill their roles and operating on dramatically different schedules.
This is one reason why regular team meetings are important. Ad hoc meetings require ad hoc scheduling, and reduce the likelihood that all your team members will be able to attend.
Ask your team to block off one hour (or two) each week (or month) for the team meeting in a time slot that is convenient for everyone. Establish a clear attendance expectation from everyone. This will exclude that time slot from the scheduling of other meetings and avoid conflict.
If you find that a team meeting is not necessary one week, you can always cancel it. Don’t hold a meeting because you always have one, make sure there is a purpose or need.
Know Your Purpose
Each team meeting should have a purpose and clear objectives. Is it to educate? Build consensus? Gather feedback?
Once you have established a purpose for a particular meeting, send an agenda to your staff confirming the meeting and outlining your objectives. This is a good time to ask if anyone has a subject, they would like to raise at the meeting.
If you find you do not have a clear purpose or objective, ask yourself if a team meeting is the best use of time for that week and consider postponing it to the next regularly scheduled time slot.
Plan Each and Every Minute
The biggest complaint from employees about team meetings is the length. Too often team meetings run out of control, and end up taking three hours instead of one. You will quickly lose team focus and respect for the regular meeting this way. By establishing a clear agenda and staying on topic, you can run an efficient, succinct meeting.
Your detailed agenda should include:
- meeting purpose or objective
- list of topics and associated speakers
- list of decisions that need to be made/agreed to
- time allocation for each topic
- opportunity for additional topics at the end
- Circulate your draft agenda in advance of the meeting, and request input and feedback.
When all team members have reviewed and contributed to the agenda, you will increase their level of ownership and buy-in into the process.
Establish the Facilitator
Choose one person to chair the meeting and keep it on track. This is generally the business owner or a senior member of the team with some authority over junior staff and a high level of respect.
It is the responsibility of the facilitator – or chairperson – to create an environment of open dialogue and trust, and to keep the meeting on schedule.
Create a Follow-up Schedule
Assign the task of taking detailed meeting minutes to a team member – or rotate this responsibility on a regular basis. It is important to record what happens in team meetings, just as you would in a client-related business meeting.
In the minutes, establish a system for tracking the action items that arise from decisions made in the meeting. This can be set up as a simple chart:
Make sure that these responsibilities are assigned and agreed upon in the meeting, and clear deadlines are established. Reviewing or following up on this chart can serve as a regular topic during team meetings.
Circulate meeting minutes to all attendees and ask for input or revisions. You may wish to circulate meeting minutes with the agenda for the next team meeting, and gather feedback at the same time.
In summary, meetings are important but require a lot of work and planning to be effective. If you have trouble in this area please feel free to contact us and discuss our Dynamic Meeting Process and see if it can improve your effectiveness.