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As a business owner, running effective team meetings has its challenges. You’re likely overseeing all parts of your business and juggling multiple responsibilities, not to mention that team meetings can seem like a GIANT waste of everybody’s time. Why bother spending your precious hours organizing and running a meeting when you have other tasks that require your attention?
Granted, if a team meeting is poorly conceived and run, it reduces to no more than a sink on everyone’s time and can become an event that your entire team dreads. Many large companies will often uphold daily or weekly meetings simply because it’s the traditional thing to do, but there’s little to no thought on the purpose of those meetings and how they’re contributing to their employees or the growth of the business.
The purpose of a team meeting
The purpose of weekly team meetings (or daily or monthly ones) is to provide a conducive environment for discussion, collaboration, and sharing ideas or information. This will vary depending on where your business currently is and where you’re hoping to grow. An effective team meeting will help you and your team get on the same page, air any concerns, iron out any kinks, and find clarity on how to move forward. When done correctly, they can be a brilliant way to bring a team together.
Types & frequency of meetings
Here are some common types of team meetings:
Why is it important to learn how to run a team meeting?
Because as a business owner, you are the leader or the captain of your entire business. You are the person steering the ship forward, which means you are the person everyone is looking to for direction, clarity, and strategy on how to grow.
It’s on you to rally your troops together, ensure they know what’s going on with the business and the goals they need to meet, and build a bright and thriving culture of continuous improvement in the process. Unless you know how to effectively plan and execute a team meeting, you will struggle to achieve this.
We all know that most meetings are terrible, just the worst. Unsurprisingly, a Fierce Inc survey found that 86% of employees and executives believe workplace failures are down to a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication. Effective team meetings are the perfect setting to drive transparent and meaningful communication that gets everyone on the same page and fired up, ready to take action towards the business’s short and long-term goals. They’re a golden opportunity to teach, inspire, pinpoint any weaknesses or challenges and address them before they grow into something bigger.
So, how do you improve team meetings?
How to run effective team meetings: 12 steps
First ask why you are having a meeting at all
The trouble with most team meetings is that businesses run them simply because they think they should, and there’s little to no thought on the purpose. Take it from me; this is poor time management, which you can read more about in my Six Winning Strategies Ebook.
So, before you call your next team meeting, think about what you’re hoping to achieve from it. How will you determine whether it was successful or not?
Successful team meetings have a clear why.
Another way to think about it is, what will happen if you don’t have a team meeting?
If the answer is not much, there’s probably not much point in having one. If there is a clear purpose, ensure you’re clear on this from the start so that you don’t waste everyone’s time (including your own).
Remember: meetings are work sessions
What should be discussed in team meetings?
I’ve seen too many instances where team meetings are used to share information that can easily be shared in an email or company newsletter. And what happens is that the majority of the meeting is spent sharing said information, and little to no time is spent reflecting on it, devising strategies and solutions, and proposing a plan of action.
So, the next time you are planning on having a team meeting, ask yourself if it’s solely because you want to share information or because you want to collaborate on something. If it’s the former, there’s a good chance you can resolve it through a communication tool, and everyone can digest it in their own time.
As a business owner you must own the meeting
If you decide that you need to run a team meeting, it’s on you to OWN that meeting. Don’t delegate the responsibility to your assistant or someone else on your team. Make sure you plan it and run it. Think about what you want to accomplish through the meeting, and work backward from there.
Remember, it’s important to show up and act professionally. This is not the time to kick back, crack some weird jokes, or wolf down your lunch. Of course, keep a sense of humor, be approachable, and create an environment where everyone feels comfortable, but also remember that everyone in the room is getting their example from how you behave.
But do ask your team for input
Whether your goal is to grow and run your business until you retire or exit your business in a few years, your team will always play a large part in how successful the company is today, tomorrow, and in the future. Therefore, it’s essential that you regularly speak to your team and ask them for input with any proposed team meetings.
What times and days are least disruptive to them?
What would they like to cover in the meeting?
How can you get them more involved from start to finish?
There won’t always be time to cover everything, but you can still make sure you follow up on everything through a future meeting or a one-to-one.
Have a clear agenda (and stick to it)
Learning how to run effective team meetings is about having a clear agenda before you begin. As I said, make sure you are the one who outlines how you want the session to run, key points of discussion, and objectives to achieve.
Ensure every point of discussion is related to your overall mission as a business and that you articulate this to your team, so they know the part they have to play in helping the company grow.
Send this out to everyone ahead of time so they can fully prepare, bring anything they need, and get a headstart on brainstorming.
Your agenda should include:
It’s a great idea to allow room at the end for spontaneous discussion and engagement. We’re all human beings, not robots, so planning a meeting down to the very last minute is unlikely to go to plan!
And if it so happens that you find the meeting runs shorter than expected, let everyone go early and get back to work—this is always a bonus.
Focus on collaboration
One of the biggest benefits of team meetings is that you have everyone together simultaneously. This is not possible every day as everyone has tasks and responsibilities to get on with. So on the rare occasions when you are together, and you have everyone’s undivided attention, focus on doing what you cannot do any other time: face-to-face collaboration.
Let your team read research, stats, or reports a week before in their own time, and come into the meeting prepared and ready to share their ideas, opinions, and plans of action. This is the perfect recipe for an energetic, exciting team dynamic where your team is bouncing ideas off each other and getting to the juiciest, most innovative solutions that will be like rocket fuel for your business.
Only invite people who HAVE to be there
What makes an effective team meeting?
Inviting as few people as possible to it, and not the entire team unless justified. This will depend on the stage you’re at in your business. A startup might only have a handful of employees performing several roles at once, in which case it might make sense to have everyone there. But as your employee count rises, make sure your team meeting numbers don’t automatically increase too. A great number to try and stick to is 3, wherever possible, but no more than 7.
Only invite people who absolutely have to be there. As a business owner, it’s on you to make that call and encourage your managers to do the same when they hold their own meetings.
This helps prevent groups separating and conversation from drifting waaaaay off-topic, for example, a discussion of where John and Mark are heading tonight for Steve’s 30th birthday and whether they should get Taco Bell or pizza.
Select the right environment
Yes, there is such a thing as effective virtual team meetings. Because sometimes a meeting doesn’t need to take place in person. Other times, it’s difficult to get everyone in the same place, especially if you have an entirely remote team or many employees or freelancers who work from home.
A virtual team meeting can be a brilliant solution to level the playing field and make everyone feel included. You and any employees in the office can participate from their desks. Just make sure everyone agrees to mute email notifications and put their phone on airplane mode for the duration so that everyone is fully present and not distracted.
Keep track of time
As I mentioned earlier, having a timed agenda is imperative if you want to stay on track and ensure the meeting doesn’t run over (because NOBODY likes that, especially when it runs over into lunch).
Make sure you’ve got any technology you plan on using set up and figured out ahead of time—we’ve all been in countless meetings where there’s meant to be a slideshow presentation and the first 20 minutes involve getting the screen to work!
Begin with the most important topics of discussion so that they always get done.
Remember that running effective team meetings is largely down to effective time management, which you can learn about in my Six Winning Strategies Ebook + so much more.
Create accountability to drive action
For each action point on your agenda, decide who will be held accountable for actioning it, and make sure they know they’re responsible.
Designate someone to take meeting minutes and send these out to everyone after the meeting draws to a close, including a brief roundup and any detail on actions to be taken and subsequent deadlines. This is also important if certain team members can’t attend or need to be kept in the loop.
Ensure everyone leaves the meeting clear about what they need to do this week, over the next month, and so on.
Variety is the spice of life
We all know that meetings can become stale and repetitive if they always follow the same people sitting around a table in a dull meeting room method.
So, now and then, don’t be afraid to spice things up. This makes team meetings more fun for you and everyone involved, which feeds into the important culture you’re building in your business.
Here are some fun team meetings ideas:
Keep getting better each week
Effective team meetings don’t happen by chance—they happen when business owners work to build effective meeting skills, monitor their progress, and continually tweak and improve as they go.
At the end of each team meeting, consider:
You may want to ask those in the meeting for their feedback too. This lets your employees know their opinion matters to you and helps them feel involved.
Building leadership skills for effective team meetings is vital if you want to run successful meetings that ultimately lead to action and vital growth in your business. At the end of the day, that’s what team meetings are almost always about.