Team meetings can be a source of frustration and an incredible waste of time. When I address execution with executives, needing more time is the biggest factor they cite.
Here’s what I hear:
“HUGE waste of time. We don’t get anything done!”
“We address things we could have taken care of by ourselves.”
“The same people always talk – and the same people always zone out. What am I here for?”
How do you make sure your meetings are productive and effective?
Here’s a quick checklist to set a firm foundation:
1. Determine the purpose for your meeting.
Are you meeting to keep your team informed of the trends in your industry? To problem-solve? To build rapport with one another? Be sure that you have this firmly in mind as you build your agenda. Take care that you do not turn team meetings into work sessions when this could be handled more efficiently outside the meeting.
2. Have an agenda with defined objectives.
Please select topics for your meeting that affect the entire team. Other issues should be held back for a time when you can meet with only those who are involved. Then, for each item listed on the agenda, list what you need from the group. Are you sharing information, seeking input for a decision, or needing to make a decision during the meeting? It’s challenging for team members to concentrate on the item at hand if they don’t know what you need from them as you address it.
3. Action items and accountability.
As you address the agenda items, make sure you bring each to a successful conclusion by listing any actions needing to be taken, the person/people taking those actions, and a deadline by which they will complete the action identified. Then, decide whether they need to report back to the group in a next team meeting, or if it is more effective simply to report back to you or the others involved in the issue.
4. Cut down on the attendee list.
Who really needs to attend? And if someone is invited because they are giving a spotlight presentation only, schedule this at the beginning or end of the meeting and let them know when to be present. Don’t have them wade through your entire meeting when it isn’t necessary. Take a quick sweep of your meeting agendas and check your attendee list. This needs to be done periodically so as to make sure that those who are invited really need to be there.
5. Prepare your attendees.
Send out your agenda at least 24 hours in advance and let them know to expect this as a rule of thumb. When you send this out, identify for them what you will be needing from them in the meeting. For example, do you want them to problem-solve a certain issue confronting the organization? Include some background beforehand.
6. Start on time.
This seems elementary, but I’m going to flag this as one of two biggest time-wasters with the world of meetings (the other one is found next, in #7). Waiting for one or two people sends the message that your time and the time of others is not valuable. It also reflects on you as being less than effective. Do you have someone who is chronically late? Address this with them privately. If they are allowed to arrive late on a regular basis, this also sends the message that your meeting is not of top priority.
7. Stick to the agenda.
Allowing team to stray from the agenda reduces effectiveness. If someone brings up an issue or problem that needs solving, but is not part of the agenda, place this in “the parking lot.” Have someone keep track of any parking lot issues by making a note of them. Then, if urgent and relevant to the team, address these at the end of your meeting if there is time or announce the plan to address these before you adjourn.
8. External check-in.
Ask your team to assess the meetings on a scale of 1-10. What will make them better? More relevant? More effective? If you are receiving feedback that your team meetings are a waste of time, you may discover that you seek to meet simply out of habit or out of a false sense of accomplishment from having met. Be honest with yourself – and go back to defining the purpose of your meeting.
Finally, as a team-building exercise, you may want to gather up the team and ask them what they would like to get out of these meetings. Such a session will no doubt surface ideas that will be helpful to you going forward.
Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.