Being able to run a really great team meeting is an absolutely vital skill to have as a team leader of any kind.
Meetings can make or break the morale of the team and their motivation to succeed. They can contribute to feelings of isolation in team members or they can make it acceptable to not be a team player. In short they set the culture of your team and they set the ceiling of your team’s performance.
By the end of this guide you will have the tools to run a team meeting that has everybody buzzing and ready to take on the world. You will feel confident enough to demand accountability and address issues that need to be addressed. You will be able to create a team that functions independently and effectively even through difficult times.
The mistake a lot of people make is that they use a team meeting to relay facts or information that may have already been relayed in email or can easily be checked by looking at spreadsheets or metrics of some kind. This should not be the purpose of a team meeting. This is when people get bored and disengaged. A team meeting should be about motivating your team. It should be about accountability and it should be about goals or action of some kind. If you've only been relaying information that can be found in reports and in other ways then you really need to address that. Have a think about how your team meetings feel, ask your people how they feel about them, and follow our steps below to re-engage and re-motivate your team meetings.
Make sure your team meetings happen when they're supposed to happen and that they happen regularly. Don't let anything barring absolute extreme emergencies get in the way. If they are due to happen on a Monday at 9 am make sure they happen on a Monday at 9 am every single week without fail. If people book meetings or training on a Monday when it's supposed to happen then make sure those people are spoken to about the absolute sanctity of the time of the team meeting and tell them that they must keep their diaries free at that time and they must attend the team meetings. Attendance is compulsory. Obviously you don't need to word it in that way, “attendance is compulsory” but you need to make it very clear that everybody understands that this is the case. I would say something like “it's really important that we are all here every single week otherwise people will start to duck out and prioritise other things when the team is absolutely the priority at all times”.
The only reason that someone would be excused attendance at the team meeting is in the case of a family emergency or illness. Work pressure should never be a reason or an excuse to not attend.
This is the old Stephen Covey adage of ‘begin with the end in mind’. By doing this you take responsibility and control of the mood of the meeting, the mood of the team, and the ability of everybody to carry out what needs to be done in the workplace in the most effective way. Many team leaders just begin their meetings without having even thought about the mood and the motivation that they want from their team at the end of the meeting which is why many team meetings are lacking in energy and end up being a negative time rather than a positive time, which in turn means that people don't want to attend and feel that it's a waste of their time.
So if you want your team to leave the meeting feeling upbeat and motivated then you must do everything you can to make sure that that's the case. Everything you say must be towards that end and not demotivating or discouraging in any way. If you want your team to leave the meeting thinking “blimey we're in trouble we really need to work hard and all pull together” then everything you say must be towards that end. What I'm really saying here is don't just go into the meeting blind, without a plan, a culture plan, so to speak, an attitude plan, like most people do, make sure you've considered that fact and you know that everything you've got to say in the meeting and everything the workplace has to provide this week, needs a team that's motivated and encouraged to succeed. If that's the case, make sure you motivate and encourage your team to succeed otherwise you will fall at the first hurdle. When this happens most team leaders blame their team when in fact the right responsibility could often be traced back to the discouraging team meetings or team meetings that just don't set the right tone.
I don't mean all American and high-fives and woo hoo and the like I just mean keeping it forceful, positive, moving forwards and not in any way moany or negative or backward looking. So this means in your tone of voice, in the energy that you give out through your body language, and the volume at which you speak, the speed with which you speak and move about, all of this contributes to the positive energy in the room or on zoom.
When I'm presenting, my voice changes. I'm more emphatic and I speak in a more projected way and am more energetic way. I use my hands more and my face is more expressive than it ever is in a one-to-one conversation. You've got to be aware of all this and you've got to practice it to make sure that you can maintain it at all times during the meeting even when somebody might distract you or may ask you something out of the blue. Practice this in front of the mirror at home to see how much more engaging you look when you increase your volume when you move your hands about a bit more when you have a more expressive face and when you talk in a way that uses a variety of tones and volumes so you're not monotone. Also you can practice speaking with more volume and therefore authority when you're driving along in the car on your own. It's really helpful because nobody else can hear you and you don't feel like an idiot. It's absolutely fine to just drive along and practice the same thing over and over again. So you might practice saying:
"Good morning everyone how are you today, isn't it a beautiful day?"
"Hope you all had a great weekend."
The team meeting isn't the time for long conversations (or even short conversations) about what you did this weekend, about what's going on in your life, about the weather. The team meeting should be really focused on action and energy and even though you said how are you today and isn't it a beautiful day you don't really want answers and you're going to communicate that by the speed with which you speak and the volume and how you control the meeting going forward. Most people don't really realise how much they can control the narrative of a team meeting or the culture of a team meeting, so they don't take that responsibility and make it happen. The first things that come out of your mouth and how they come out of your mouth can set the tone for the entire meeting so make sure you've thought about it and make sure you're ready. If you've got a head full of what happened last night or the email you've just read then take a moment to do some breathing. Just one minute of deep breathing, and ready yourself and your brain to go into a different mode of being, that of being an inspirational meeting leader.
Many people see a team meeting as a time to vent their woes their troubles their moans, and to some extent people should be able to say what's on their mind or how they are feeling about something, but if you really want to control the narrative and the culture and you want to keep it upbeat then you need to have a strategy in your mind, a strategy in place to deal with people who might just go on a bit and risk turning the meeting into a moan fest. This technique should be to allow people to say their bit but only if it's short and then move people on very quickly with statements such as:
‘thanks for that Phil, how are we going to stop that happening again?’
‘what does everyone else think we should've done differently?’
‘What should've Phil done differently to stop the situation like that happening again?’
Most moaners want somebody else to solve their problems and if you ask them what they could've done differently or you engage the group in a discussion on their behaviour so that there is a spotlight on them, that discourages people from bringing just moans to the team meeting. I'm not saying we shouldn't address the things that Phil is worried about, or what people are finding difficult but there are ways of addressing things and we need to make sure that they happen positively and in a forward-looking manner. So don't engage with negativity. Don’t feel as though you have to revisit the things in the past that people are bringing up or that you have to visit in detail the things that people are talking about negatively at that time. If something needs addressing then you can talk to them about it separately or have a separate meeting about it. Don't be derailed from the culture and the agenda that you're wanting to have on the table today. Another option that is open to you is simply to ignore what they say, you can show with your eyes that you've heard it by nodding at them in some way but you don't have to respond to it, or you can just move onwards and and carry on with the agenda. It gives a clear message to all of those present that moaning and negativity isn't welcome.
If you don't encourage everyone to take part then some people will be tempted, especially in an online meeting, to have a quick peek at their emails or to send a few texts. It's really vital that you get people on board in terms of sharing ideas and thoughts and comments as well as different people actually presenting different parts of the meeting. With the best will in the world people will get bored of a single voice in the whole meeting every week, week in week out. People need to hear different voices and also it's good for you to not be running the whole thing all the time every week. By delegating different parts of the meeting you improve people’s leadership skills, you improve their confidence, you enable them to be challenged in the way that you feel challenged or that you felt challenged in your earlier days. You should always be thinking about how you can bring your team on, how you can develop them, and this is one way in which you can do that and ease your own load week by week. Again people are much more engaged in a meeting in which they are going to take part because they have to listen for their cue all the time. So if for only that reason then it's a good idea to involve other people in the team meeting.
People involved in the team meeting feel more valued as well: valued by the business and involved in, engaged, which is the buzzword that that every business wants their employees to be at the moment, so again that's a good reason to involve others in the meeting.
It doesn't have to be massively intricate, in fact it shouldn’t be massively intricate, just a few key points or a few key parts of the meeting that will always be the same. So it will be something like:
Or whatever is appropriate for you in your team meeting. Keep on point to the agenda items. It's frustrating for everyone when a meeting gets derailed by a few individuals and ends up being about something completely different. While it might be a good use of those individuals’ time to talk about it now, it may well be a complete waste of others’ time to be in that meeting and hearing that. Be strong and tell people that this meeting needs to stay on point,
“we need to stick to our agenda items because we've only got a fixed amount of time.”
“If we don't stick to our agenda items then we will end up missing out or not having enough time for the last few items and that's frustrating for everybody.”
So acknowledge kindly people’s contributions but make it clear that any deviating subjects need to be addressed separately at another time.
If you always have goals in your meeting, then make following up on the goals from the previous meeting part of your agenda. This way people always have to account for whether they have achieved their goals or not, and people don't like coming to a meeting and saying they haven't achieved so it will motivate your team to be achieving their goals throughout the week, so that they can come back and say that they have completed their goals in the team meeting. If you have regular accountability sessions in the team meeting then it comes as no surprise to anyone when you attempt to hold them accountable to do with any projects that are ongoing at any point during the week. And you should also never be taken by surprise about somebody's position in terms of a project because week by week they will have been telling you what stage they were at, if that project is something they needed to be accountable for.
Put initials at the side of every single action that you come up with so that it's very clear for everyone whose responsibility it is to complete the actions that have come out of the meeting. There should be no doubt who is responsible for an action that has come out of a meeting.
As part of the agenda you should always have in mind how you are going to close the meeting, what you're going to say to finish it off, nicely rather than just let it wither away because nobody else is saying anything. So have in mind a pithy comment or a motivational phrase or something that you can say that will indicate to everyone that the meeting is over and we can all move on and get on with our work.
Finishing a meeting on time is something that everyone should get used to happening. If a meeting is diarised for one hour it should take one hour and no more. People need to know that they can rely on you to stick to meeting prediction times. If something else arises during the meeting that you need to spend time on then you can schedule a separate meeting but perhaps doesn't need everyone present at this one to move forward on that subject. What I do to make sure we keep on track is that I constantly reference the time so at the beginning of the meeting I might say we've got one hour for this meeting and we've got four agenda items so I suggest we do 15 minutes on each that means that at 1:15 say I can say okay it's 1:15 we really need to be moving onto agenda item two. And at 1:45 I can say right we need to move on to the last item or if we're already on it I can be saying right I've got 15 minutes for any other business. When you're constantly reminding people about the time and the passage of the time it keeps them focused it keeps them on point. Okay so five minutes from the end you can say:
“we are due to end in five minutes so has anyone got any final thoughts”
You should also know how long your finish takes. If you're finish takes 30 seconds you need to plan that in, and if someone looks as though they're going to be chatting on too much or talking at too much length you can even give them a come on we need to be winding this up now nod or hand motion so that they know to wind things up.
People really appreciate a meeting that finishes on time. You mark yourself out as someone who is highly effective by being able to finish a meeting on time.
What I want you to do now is:
Once you become more au fait with carrying on meetings with these 10 factors in mind then you will enjoy meetings a lot more and you will become a lot more effective. You will be able to structure them, carry them out, and have each person leave each meeting with a lot more energy and focus. So push yourself to abide by these 10 tips and watch your team productivity rise.