7 Steps to Running Effective and Engaging Team Meetings
Most teams don’t really work.
And most team meetings don’t work either.
Am I going too far?
What should you expect of your team, and your team meetings?
I believe that when you come together as a team, you SHOULD expect your team to be highly engaged in the process.
So, how can you ensure that you will achieve outstanding collective engagement in your regular team meetings? I’d like to bring to your attention 3 vital areas to consider to enable you to achieve that:
- Become aware of the Mexican Wave of engagement in your meetings
- Make the most important mindset shift to become a great manager
- Implement the 7 steps to running a collective and engaging meeting
1. Become aware of the Mexican Wave of engagement in your meetings
Looking at the average weekly, fortnightly or monthly team meeting can provide great insight into how most teams really work.
Check out the diagram below.
In the middle is the manager, who is running the meeting.
The meeting might begin with an “update” from the first team member, but it’s not long before the manager begins to tell, question or engage in some way with that first team member.
Following the completion of those discussions about that team member’s work, the manager moves on to the next team member where they likewise engage that member by either advising them what to do next or questioning them about the status of some piece of work.
Once that is finished, the manager moves on to the next person, and the process continues.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Here’s the problem. Once the team members realise that this pattern will be repeated in every or most meetings, engagement in the meeting begins to resemble a Mexican Wave. It peaks when the manager’s attention is on them, but falls away abruptly when the manager moves to the next person.
Each person’s engagement does the same thing. So, individuals get highly engaged only when the manager’s focus is on them, and fades quickly when it moves to another team member. It’s a Mexican Wave of engagement.
The manager is having a series of one-on-ones, while the rest of the team watches. That’s all.
There is very little COLLECTIVE engagement of the team around a shared problem, challenge or opportunity.
Some might say it’s not actually a meeting at all. It’s really one-on-ones with the manager, but held in an environment where others can observe.
Sounds familiar, right?
I’ve shared this predicament with hundreds of people who attend regular team meetings and have seen hundreds of heads nod in agreement.
Who is feeling the pain in this picture?
Generally, it’s not the manager.
Often, the manager feels they are working hard, giving feedback, providing guidance and generally feeling like a MANAGER. They might be deriving a good sense of usefulness from the experience.
In some cases, however, the manager might be feeling frustrated that they seem to be driving all the conversation. That’s understandable, since they are.
The team, on the other hand, is left very under-challenged.
Even though they are sitting together, their collective capability, their collective genius, is remaining untapped. It’s like getting a bunch of racehorses in a paddock then telling them there is nowhere to run, and nothing to do.
The TEAM is not engaged, not rallying, not learning from each other, and not combining their thinking to generate new insight and new action plans. They are disengaged.
Why does this happen?
It’s largely because most managers know a lot more about how to run a one-on-one than they do about facilitating a collective, a team.
They know how to have an efficient one-on-one, and they are taking that know-how right into the meeting. And it’s not really working.
Their meetings have a become a forum for more one-on-ones.
They simply don’t know how to structure, or design, an effective collective investigation and resolution of an important problem. That’s not surprising, since it is rarely taught.
2. Making the most important mindset shift to become a great manager
Understandably, most managers suffer from the malady of thinking they SHOULD KNOW the answers, and SHOULD HAVE the solutions. They imagine that it’s their knowledge that legitimises them as managers.
Consequently, they see each meeting as an important opportunity to demonstrate their appropriateness as a manager, by sharing their knowledge.
What drives all that? ANXIETY.
A subtle or not-so-subtle anxiety that drives a compulsive need to prove worth through knowing and telling.
The underlying anxiety that they are not good enough as managers, that each week is another “proving” of their competency, tends to create a very unhelpful tendency to TRY REALLY HARD to be giving constant advice, to give direction by telling and generally solving everybody’s problems.
The trouble is, that pattern of behaviour creates disengaged teams, who then tend to become passive, and ever more reliant on the solutions provided by the manager.
Team members discover that their manager will provide the answer, the direction, the solution, and it’s best just to wait.
So, how should managers run team meetings, so that the power of the collective is engaged?
To apply the alternate approach and methodology below requires a shift in your mindset.
Here’s that shift:
To do this requires the manager to plan their meeting around what questions they want to ask, not just the things they want to tell their team.
This shift requires managers to think about what questions to ask, and how to sequence those questions to help the team answer the important questions that need answering.
The Kite model described in my earlier blog, is specifically used to help managers and all those who run meetings, to identify which questions need to be asked, and in what order.
So, please don’t think that the simple process described below is as easy as it looks. It’s easy to follow intellectually, but unexamined emotional processes will sabotage your best efforts.
Most of us are required to examine ourselves, our thinking and feeling habits, to unlearn what we normally do, and allow the approach below to stick. It might look like a quick fix, but that’s not my intention.
I want to challenge you to reflect on the drivers, the belief system that has created your team, and your team meetings, to be just what they are.
If you want a better team, and better team meetings, that genuinely hum with your team’s own inventiveness, start with YOUR OWN MIND, and your own behaviours.
Examine what managerial behaviours you are displaying on a regular basis, behaviours that don’t need to be prompted, that are usually delivered without conscious awareness.
Some of these behaviours are automatic, instantaneous patterns of behaviour that are driven by unexamined anxieties. And they usually create more of what you DON’T want.
Keeping those habitual patterns in mind, ask yourself “what underlying assumptions or beliefs could be driving the approach I have adopted?”
Perhaps your behavioural patterns might be close to the managers described above, who habitually go to providing answers, solutions and advice when facing a problem or challenge.
What beliefs might be driving those behaviours?
Perhaps you might be thinking that it’s your ability to give more answers that qualifies you to be earning the extra $ that comes with being a manager. That belief is highly limited, and ultimately sabotaging your intentions to be a great manager.
3. Implement the 7 steps to running a collective and engaging meeting
Here’s a practical approach that will transform your regular team meetings. It’s adapted from Patrick Lencioni’s book, Death by Meeting.
It helps the manager avoid the unwanted trap of diving into each team member’s work, one after the other, and handing out solutions as they go. No one grows in that scenario, and a better business is not created.
Importantly, DON’T create an agenda before the meeting. Instead, follow these steps, and create the agenda INSIDE the meeting.
Assuming it’s a regular meeting, ie weekly or fortnightly, keep it to about 60 minutes. Never longer than 90 minutes.
1. Open the meeting.
The manager opens the meeting with any new information they need to provide to the team. For example: current business results, relevant decisions from the Board or Exec team, etc. Keep this opening to about 5 minutes.
2. Updates from each team member.
Max 90 seconds from each member. Stick to the rule, and don’t let some break it, and others not. It’s amazing how much can be said in 90 seconds. Don’t allow discussion after each update. Rather, invite people to make a note of things they might want to follow up with someone after the meeting.
3. List items to be addressed.
Facilitate your team to list the issues / challenges / opportunities they want to have addressed.
4. Prioritise the list.
Decide which items will be addressed. If it’s a regular meeting, then the items to be addressed should not be large strategic issues. Those items should have their own meeting. Keep this regular meeting focused on relatively tactical stuff. You probably won’t get through more than 3 to 5 items.
5. Address item number one, using the Kite.
Apply the Kite and begin by deciding if the team conversation needs to be in the Problem Space or the Resolution Space. In other words, decide if the team needs to create clarity on what the problem is, or if they can go straight to how to resolve it. Once you have decided that, take the group through the questions that will lead them to answer the critical final question relating to that space. The Kite model will help you identify those questions.
6. Address the remaining items in the same way.
7. Review and Close.
Understand that the Kite model is a requirement to be able to execute this new approach.
I am very confident that as you apply this approach, your team will have new conversations, create new insights, and develop powerful plans moving forward. This approach will interrupt the familiar, predictable patterns of conversation that might be constituting your regular meetings.
I’d love you to hear your comments on these thoughts and suggestions after trying these 7 steps at your next team meeting. Let us know how it went in the comments!
Or, just email me or give me a call to arrange a coaching session that will transform your approach to your team and your team meetings. I’ll teach you the Kite Model as we work!
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