Sticky solutions to your everyday business challenges
Question: I manage an 8-person business development team. We recently completed a team engagement survey that identified our top challenge as not having productive meetings. Since we all started working from home and dealing with the ups and downs of Covid-19, I’ve allowed our meetings to turn into group support sessions. While I think there is value in sharing challenges with each other, this is an area that I want to tackle in 2022. Can you recommend any tips for how to keep our team meetings productive?
Answer: Too many managers think their job ends when the meeting starts or that they merely serve as “agenda police”. But a manager is a manager, whether you run a meeting or a team. Here are some communication tools to make sure that critical points are raised and discussed effectively.
1. An agenda is a piece of paper. A point is a paper airplane. An agenda is a helpful roadmap, but not an effective tool for conveying your key points. In addition to creating an agenda, prepare a few brief and valuable points in advance. Reflect on the agenda and ask yourself these questions:
What ideas do I want to raise at this meeting?
- What challenges do I/we need help with?
- Who deserves praise or mention?
- What questions do I most want the team to address?
2. Tackle the “why”. At the start of the meeting, share the meeting’s purpose – what needs to be shared, reviewed, or decided. Avoid adding to your team’s depressing monotony of yet another Zoom meeting to “explore”. Stating a clear purpose at the start of the meeting will help to ensure that your team can actively engage in working together to achieve a common goal.
3. Narrate the scaffolding. Leaders often – and should – kick off meetings with greetings and important updates. If your opening comments cover several topics, provide a preview: “Before we start, I’d like to quickly cover . . .” Use internal transitions such as, “Let’s spend the next 15-20 minutes discussing the pros and cons of (the “why”), the next 10-15 minutes on setting milestones to accomplish (the “why”) in the next 90-days, then wrap with what action items each of us will be responsible for reporting on at our weekly meetings to ensure we make it happen.
Finally, let your team know that you’ve changed the structure of your meetings specifically to address the team engagement survey challenge. Be disciplined about modeling your new meeting tools, but ask your team for feedback over the next few months so that, together, you can course correct and make improvements as you go.
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