There’s more to the team meeting than meets the eye. Effective, productive team meetings are not just at the heart of the little victories like accomplishing shared tasks and achieving collective goals, they are a manifestation of team functioning, an important demonstration of how well everyone works together.
The more effective your team meeting practices are, the greater your combined productivity becomes, and the more successfully you perform as a unit within your organization.
What is a team meeting?
Fundamentally, team meetings are about solving problems by encouraging honest, unguarded dialogue that naturally engages each person’s skills, experiences, insights and perspectives, while also providing assistance to each other in order to achieve common targets and shared ambitions.
Regardless of how they are conducted, team meetings are an essential tool for establishing objectives, managing assignments, streamlining productivity, and collective development.
Nevertheless, team meetings often don’t live up to these ideals. There is an inherent fragility to our focus and motivation when we meet in groups, and particularly when we have recurring team meetings.
Without appropriate preparation, effective practices and constructive leadership, team meetings often miss the mark, resulting in heavy-eyed participants all doing their best to hide irrepressible yawning, or they collapse entirely and become nothing more than a social chat about news and the weather.
Why you should continue reading 🤓
Whether you’re concerned about the current state of your meetings or you’re one of those rare and dedicated leaders constantly looking to develop evermore effective practices, this team meeting tutorial is for you. In it we present some of the most effective meeting practices as well as the collective and individual actions required to support team productivity.
PPE: The three phases of productive team meetings
Successful team meetings aren’t produced on the fly. They require thoughtful planning and execution. Meetings are a process and your practices before and after each meeting are as important as your actions during the meeting. To yield productive results, consideration must be given to the three phases of any meeting, which we call PPE:
Preparation: Fail to prepare and you should be prepared to fail
Meeting preparation practices that promote productive outcomes and encourage team processes are centered around organizing logistics as well as composing and distributing the team meeting agenda well in advance.
The logic of good logistics
In terms of logistics, key questions you should be asking yourself include: Have the time and date for the team meeting been set? Has sufficient notice been given to all team members? Has the location, seating, catering and tech support been arranged? Has the computer, projector, sound system and any other equipment been tested and technical issues, if any, resolved? Does the meeting space allow the facilitator and all participants to communicate with one another easily and clearly? And last but by no means least, is the venue comfortable? Think air conditioning, lighting, refreshments…
Team meeting agenda
A team meeting without an agenda is probably not worth attending. Preparing and circulating an agenda well in advance not only offers team members reasons for attending and organizers the opportunity to collect valuable feedback on agenda items but prevents misunderstandings over who will be addressing each topic.
It also provides structure and the opportunity to prepare so that time is used optimally. A well-organized agenda includes a brief outline of the team meeting objectives, a chronologically itemized list of topics to be discussed, as well as who will be presenting and how much time has been allocated.
Specialized meeting software, like that developed by FirstAgenda, can be extremely helpful, especially for recurring team meetings.
Need help with your agenda? Download our free team meeting agenda template.
Participation: Fail to participate and you can expect to be sidelined
A major misconception about participation is that it is independent of planning, that it just happens on its own. It does not.
Getting team members to participate requires specific practices and the more effectively those practices are performed, the more productive the meeting’s outcome. To keep your team members motivated and engaged, make sure you establish and regularly review meeting ground rules, assign administrative roles, summarize decisions and assign action items, and finally, an often disregarded but fundamental point – begin and end your team meetings on time. ⏱
Every ground rule is a golden rule!
Why? Because they are about respecting each team member’s time. As such, you can imagine that they are particularly important for recurring team meetings. The team should establish the rules together, determining what is expected of participants in terms of behavior and common courtesy. These rules will form the foundation for all future interactions at team meetings and should be reviewed regularly.
A good starting point would be to acknowledge that each participant’s point of view is inherently valuable, which would lead to the next point – members should be required to listen conscientiously to one another and not interrupt or instigate side conversations.
Key questions you should be asking yourself include:
⏱ How do we deal with latecomers? - We recommend you resist recapitulating as it creates the impression that it is acceptable to be late for team meetings.
📞 How should participants handle interruptions like important phone calls?
🤫 How will concerns of confidentiality be handled? You want to create a safe environment for your team to share their opinions.
☝️ How will team members be held accountable?
⌛What happens when the scheduled end time arrives, but all topics have not been discussed? - We recommend you do not exceed your allotted time, but instead organize your agenda in order of importance and add any omitted items to the next team meeting agenda.
Assign roles, not blame
Who is responsible for what? When team members arrive at a meeting only to find themselves confused about their role, their enthusiasm and effectiveness both tend to plummet. Establishing clearly defined roles and responsibilities will not just improve productivity by providing the required structure but generate a greater sense of unity within the team. For recurring team meetings, appoint members on a rotational basis to the roles of facilitator, timekeeper and recorder.
The facilitator is the team meeting leader, but his or her approach to that role should be a collaborative one. The successful meeting facilitator will focus on effective participation of all team members.
Encourage participants who are reluctant to contribute but be careful to ask questions that gently persuade instead of issuing unforgiving commands like a tyrant. What’s more, the facilitator, perhaps more so than any other member, is responsible for listening intently, keeping the discussion moving in the direction of the team meeting objectives, and fostering collaboration and consensus among the team.
Following a signal from the timekeeper, the facilitator synopsizes the discussion and the team decide what action to take before moving on to the next item on the team meeting agenda.
Evaluation: Fail to evaluate and you are doomed to repeat your mistakes
Evaluation involves taking the time to critically assess the team, the meeting and the progress made, and then utilizing that intelligence to develop an improvement strategy for the next team meeting. Also consider opening productive post-meeting lines of communication with participants to analyze team processes.
Key questions you should be asking yourself include:
Don’t delay distributing your team meeting minutes. Of all the effective practices for boosting productivity, your meeting minutes are among the most important. They not only record the decisions made but serve as a tool to measure and monitor each participant’s progress on completing designated responsibilities.
Let’s wrap up 🌯
Team meetings can be challenging. They require us to establish and commit to well-defined mutual goals, to communicate thoughts, perceptions and concepts with clarity and precision, to motivate one another to actively participate in discussions while sustaining amicable interpersonal relationships.
Applying a set of effective practices to manage your recurring team meetings is fundamental to productive outcomes. Fortunately, these are not difficult to learn or hard to implement. If you take away one lesson from this team meeting tutorial, let it be this: Effective team meetings are the product of effective team members.
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