#LeadershipLessons: How to run a team meeting people will actually want to attend

 
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How many meetings have you attended so far this week? How many more do you have scheduled in before the end of play Friday? How many have you enjoyed and how many are you looking forward to?

I posted this on Facebook recently: “When I was a kid, I remember adults talking about being in meetings at work and I always thought, ‘What do they do in all these meetings?’ It didn't feel like real work. Now I understand. So far today I've had a 1.5 hour team meeting (during which we arranged a finance meeting and two review meetings), a client briefing and a sales call, and I still have another briefing and another sales call before the end of the day!”

I didn’t expect the flurry of comments that the post generated. Some people talked about how much they hate meetings. Others talked about what kind of meetings they find useful.

One friend said, “If you don’t like meetings, you’re doing them wrong.”

Another said, “I like good meetings. I don’t like bad ones.”

So what makes a good meeting? Since our weekly team meetings are not only a vital jumping off point for a successful week but actually one of the things I most look forward to on a Monday, I thought I’d share some of the things we put into practice to ensure they’re good meetings and not bad ones.

Set the agenda together

Our weekly team meeting agenda takes the form of a Trello board. There are several regular items that we work through in turn and then finally an Any Other Business card. Everyone has access to the agenda and anyone can add to it. Which means that we’re all bringing our issues to the table and each person has certain items that they tend to lead on, depending on their area of the business. As a result, we all have ownership of the meeting rather than feeling like we’re unwilling attendees at someone else’s meeting.

Only involve those who need to be involved

When Sam was interning for us over the summer, he used to sit in on our team meetings. It was a good way for him to see the inner workings of a small copywriting agency and I think he found it useful. But now he’s joined the team part time, working with us alongside his university studies, it simply wouldn’t be a good use of his hours. If I insisted he dial in, he’d be that guy in the meeting thinking about his to do list and looking at the clock. So he doesn’t attend anymore. Simple.

Make sure you care

The first item on our agenda each week is, “How is everyone feeling?” To be honest, we’ve usually covered that by the time we actually open the agenda board, but to me it’s still important that it’s an official part of proceedings. There’s nothing worse than having to brave your way through monthly targets and lead tracking when you’re still fuming because of the guy who cut you up on the way in to work or distracted because your child is going through a rough patch at school. By understanding how we all are feeling we can be supportive, helpful and sensitive in the way we conduct the rest of the meeting. And we can continue with the rest of the meeting more connected as a team.

Celebrate success

How many of the meetings you attend are future focused? It’s easy in business to get obsessed with what’s coming up in the future - more clients, bigger targets, win, win, win! But how often do we look back? One of the regular items on our team meeting agenda is Big Wins, which gives us the chance to reflect on the previous week and take a moment to appreciate those things that went well and congratulate ourselves and each other for a job well done. It could be that we won a new client, powered through a massive to do list or simply had a really productive 121. It’s not about the size of the win, it’s about calling it out.

Give people a chance to complain

You might think that giving your team a chance to air their grievances would be a bad idea, but I disagree. The agenda item after Big Wins in our weekly meeting is Learning Points, where we think back over the previous week and talk about the challenges we’ve faced and how we can do things differently in the future. The unexpected result of adding this agenda item has been that Liz and Rosie have a dedicated space in which to tell me about stuff that hasn’t worked so well. Like the time I came back from holiday to discover how not leaving handover notes had made life difficult in my absence! Having an opportunity to share issues on a regular basis means they’re resolved quickly and not left to fester. Result: a happy work environment.

Meetings can be dry, dull and ultimately a waste of time. But they don’t have to be. If you put a little effort into thinking about your meetings and planning them for maximum efficiency, I reckon you could eliminate anything that’s a time waster and be left with a small handful of productive, focused and - dare I say it - enjoyable meetings instead.

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