Meaningless Meetings or Intentional Conversations? – 3 Tips for Leading Great Team Meetings

I was recently talking with a new client in preparation for our first consulting visit. This was a routine call that I typically do with the leader to ask some basic questions about how they interact with their team. It’s a quick way for me to get insight to how the leader leads and how their team operates. Usually it’s a quick peak into their culture which helps me prepare for working with them.

Fast Growth Exasperates Complexity

As with most of the clients we serve, this was a young organization that had grown rapidly and found themselves frustrated with the difficulty and complexity they were facing. Not uncommon at all.

But after asking just a few questions, I discovered a significant trouble spot that was incredibly easy to fix.

This leader and his team had no structure or rhythm for meeting together.

“How do you get anything done?” I asked.

“Well, it’s getting more and more difficult.” Mike replied. “When there were just a handful of us on staff we just kind of figured out how to get the information we needed. We were constantly together so it was never a problem. Now, there are dozens of us at different office locations with varying work schedules, and it seems like it’s harder than ever to get even the simplest things done. Let alone actually hold anyone accountable for their work.”

We Fear Meetings Because We Fear Bureaucracy

What Mike expressed to me is something I’ve heard from too many leaders. It’s a common reality especially for organizations that start small and grow rapidly. Creating meeting structures feels bureaucratic. We fear we’ll lose the relational culture and spontaneous spirit that helped us get to where we’ve gotten so far. We resist it rather than recognize that without it we could actually begin to lose the very thing we’re clinging to.

Most of us resist creating weekly staff meetings and regular one-on-one meetings with our team because we’re afraid of boring meetings that everyone hates. I get it.

But I believe that we have to reframe our perspective on this, because as a leader you need regular time with your team in order to lead from your extraordinary best.

Personally, I believe you need to establish this rhythm as soon as you have someone else you’re working with to accomplish a shared goal. Whether there are two of you or 2,000, regular gatherings for connecting and communicating are essential for your effectiveness as a team. I like to think of meetings as “intentional conversations around a shared goal.”

3 Tips for Creating Great Team Meetings

1) Determine the Purpose

Why are you meeting? The reason so many of us are resistant to creating regular meetings is because we fear the boredom of monotonous information that doesn’t help us actually get our work done. As a leader, you’ve got to own this and be committed to creating meetings that unite the team and equip each person to do their job better. If a meeting doesn’t move the mission forward, cut it. If the mission isn’t moving forward, start gathering the troops for a regular meeting.

2) Be Prepared

Another reason we have meeting-phobia is that people (including the leader) often show up unprepared. This is why most meetings feel like a waste of time. Set an agenda ahead of time. If you’re leading the meeting, send the agenda as well as any prep work the team needs to do in adequate time for them to be prepared as well. If you’re naturally a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants leader, you will falsely assume that everyone else can do this too. They can’t. Your team will be more prepared and contribute more confidently if they have had time to think about the topic or prepare necessary information for the meeting.

3) Establish a Regular Schedule

Your team needs predictable rhythms of work. Most of us face enough surprises and curve balls in our regular work. Sporadic meeting schedules don’t need to add to the chaos. Determine how frequently you need to meet to effectively accomplish your shared goals and then commit to that schedule.

None of us want to be victims of “death by meetings” but we also don’t want to experience organization death because of not meeting. Gather your team and get stuff done!

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