Love them or hate them, meetings are the basic building blocks of work today.
Which means that a key leadership skill for you to develop is how to run better meetings.
Especially your team meetings.
After all, these meetings are perhaps the primary place where you and your team establish an ethos, a culture, and a shared vision of what you can accomplish together.
Run these meetings well, and they will boost your leadership and your team. Run them poorly, and you may be dooming your team to mediocrity.
In fact, this may be one of your most important jobs as a leader.
You can’t expect team members to go off and work miracles on their own and in isolation. Teamwork begins in team meetings and continues on through individual activities.
And teamwork is everything.
“Talent wins games but teamwork wins championships.” –Michael Jordan.
You probably know that establishing a shared vision, clear goals, and high expectations are crucial to developing teamwork.
What may not be so obvious are the best ways to do this, particularly in your team meetings, which are a basic building block of managing and organizing and motivating your team.
But one thing is clear in the research. High performing teams have high levels of group emotional intelligence.
And that is something you, as a leader, can cultivate in your team.
That’s what this post is all about.
Following are 8 specific ideas for how you can run great team meetings and cultivate the type of teamwork that makes great things possible (also summarized in the video below).
Team Meeting Ideas
1. Hold Meetings at Regular Intervals.
More importantly, setting a recurring schedule signals a level of importance to everyone on the team — a forum is being established for regular, live, face-to-face communication.
Regular meetings also eliminate wasted time and energy in managing the logistics of ad hoc meetings.
Routine has a downside too, of course, so once you establish a regular interval for meetings it is crucial that you make good strategic use of each of those gatherings.
Which leads us to idea #2…
2. Adjust the Agenda and Format to Fit Each Meeting’s Specific Purpose.
After establishing a pattern that signals importance and resolves logistical issues, it’s important to make great use of the time within each of the meetings.
As the challenges facing the team shift and as the dynamics of the environment change, reshape the content within the meeting accordingly.
Adjust your team meeting agenda strategically. Shift the format to accommodate the work at hand. If the goals of the meeting are best met by free form discussion, then lead a free form discussion. If a workshop exercise is most appropriate, run the workshop exercise. If decisions need to be made, make sure they get made.
Small changes can keep meetings fresh too. Something as simple as ending a meeting early when all the objectives have been met or bringing snacks or sharing a thank you note from a happy customer can help to mix things up in a small way and generate positive energy. Make some part of the meeting unpredictable and surprising from time to time in order to inject fresh energy into the meeting.
3. Make Sure Everybody Speaks Up and Contributes
Encourage participation by adopting an open tone, being supportive, and directly soliciting input from individuals. Show that everyone on the team can contribute – and that everyone on the team is expected to contribute.
In most groups this must be actively managed. Some individuals will tend to dominate a discussion and some will tend to remain quiet. As the leader, it’s crucial that you find ways to politely curb the over-contributors and ways to encourage the quiet participants to speak up.
It’s particularly important to stay on top of this as team meeting topics shift over time. The dynamics can shift dramatically as the topics change.
A well-balanced discussion is going to move team goals forward faster and more effectively.
4. Ensure That Each Meeting is Well-Prepared
Somebody needs to prepare the main content of the meeting. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the meeting leader, but the meeting leader is always responsible to make sure that preparation happens.
Once you have set the agenda and decided on the most appropriate format for your next gathering, the content needs to be developed.
If you are going to run a discussion, what are the key questions that must be answered? If you are reviewing some aspect of the project, who is preparing the summary presentation and analysis and what format will it take? If you are generating ideas to help shape future plans, what should each attendee be expected to bring to the session?
A good plan will lead to a clear set of preparation requirements. Good preparation will lead to a good meeting.
You can quickly grab a free full color handy one-page summary of the 8 team meeting ideas in this post right here. It’s a handy reference!
5. Don’t Waste Time With Status Updates
While it’s important to let everyone know what is going on, it’s better to find another outlet for this information whenever possible. Meeting preparation can include writing and reading updates so that everyone comes in ready to use the time together more productively.
Exceptions, outliers, or anomalies can be presented in the live meeting effectively. These unusual updates be a helpful way to review crucial lessons or provoke insightful discussion.
Live meeting time is best used for analysis, debate, and decision making. Keeping meetings operating in these areas will make for a more dynamic and productive discussion and will create much higher levels of team engagement.
6. Be A Vulnerable Leader
Everybody knows this, including you, so let go of old management stereotypes and embrace the value of team input.
Asking “what do you think?” Saying “I don’t know,” “I’m not sure,” or “How should we approach this?” can be some of the best ways you can show real leadership.
To get the best results you want everyone to contribute ideas and insights. You need to show that this is welcome and expected. You need to show that you need help as a leader, that you need real thought and real contributions.
You’re not bringing the group together to tell them what to do, you’re bringing the group together for collective analysis and decision making. The last thing you want is people to approach the meeting by trying to guess what the “right” answer is that the leader wants.
It can be a challenge to get people to speak up in meetings in the first place. Being comfortable showing some vulnerability and need for help is a powerful way to encourage greater participation.
7. Be Honest and Direct with Your Own Contributions
If the team leader sets this tone, it will become adopted by the group and real, meaningful input can be gained from everyone.
You have opinions and ideas like everyone else. You should share them and prepare to be contested or corrected just like everyone else. One way to lead effectively is to participate in the meeting in the manner you expect from everyone else.
If you want others to tell you what they really think, then you should be prepared to share in the same way.
Don’t go crazy and don’t dwell on the negative, but don’t be afraid to get into the too often unspoken stuff that matters. The stuff that can really inform what’s happened to date and what strategies will work going forward.
Work doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens in a messy, chaotic, political place we call the office. Don’t ignore that.
Build trust over time as the group bonds in a “safe haven” of sorts for discussing these more sensitive aspects of work. And make sure it is clear that free flowing opinions and political insights should be discussed only to improve productivity and results, not as a gossip session.
8. Move Things Forward.
The number one thing that motivates each of us at work is a sense of progress. Use team meetings to develop plans and make decisions. Each of those milestones becomes a concrete sign of progress and an important signal to everyone on the team.
Of course, it’s important that you consistently follow through on those actions. Once a plan is made, stick to it. Don’t constantly revisit and reverse decisions.
Even simple things like following the agenda that is set for the meeting conveys a sense of progress.
One great way to emphasize a sense of progress is to celebrate wins. Major milestones merit special acknowledgement or even a team lunch.
Celebrate the small wins too. They are important and can make for a good opportunity for some light-hearted fun by over-celebrating small things or giving out silly prizes or making up goofy award names.
The important thing is to continually find ways to demonstrate that the team is making progress.
Be intentional about how you organize and orchestrate your team meetings.
Team meetings are where you come together to discuss problems. To get excited about opportunities. To make decisions.
They are a shared touchstone for what is going on. They are a shared foundation for what we should be focusing on next.
As a leader, the way you run these meetings determines a lot about how well your team will perform.
If you can cultivate a shared sense of ownership and a culture of cooperation, you and your team will be well on your way to accomplishing more.
Establishing a predictable pattern for your meetings can make it easy and comfortable for everyone on the team to participate.
Adjusting the agenda for the matters at hand demonstrates the level of thoughtfulness and preparation that you expect from everyone.
Providing support for everyone’s contribution and ideas will help to get the best thinking out in front of the group.
Making sure that meeting preparation is distributed helps reinforce the sense of team effort required to get work done.
Respecting everyone’s time by eliminating time-wasting status updates and the like will help to keep everyone on their toes.
Showing vulnerability is one of the best ways to lead by example, and to show that it is a balance of talents and input that will lead to the best solutions.
Being honest and candid is probably the best (and maybe the only) way to get everyone else to do the same.
Making sure that things move forward is going to give the team that much needed sense of progress, which fuels motivation and enthusiasm.
Bringing all of these things together will help you lead your team to the best outcomes, and in an enjoyable way. That’s what teamwork is all about. And that’s what will bring about the most spectacular results.
Grab your free full color handy one-page summary of the 8 team meeting ideas in this post for handy reference.