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MEMBER EXCHANGE – How to conduct effective meetings

One of the many disadvantages of becoming an ‘accidental manager’ is that most of the time they become managers largely due to technical abilities and less because of their people management skills. After all, it’s never easy to manage people, especially their former peers.

Although new people managers are keen and excited about new challenges there are some fundamental aspects of managing teams which they may have taken for granted. One such example is when they inherit a team meeting format. While this format may be highly effective, often it is heavily influenced and suited to the previous manager.

Being a new manager is the perfect opportunity to make your mark and running an inclusive and effective team meeting is an excellent place to start. Below are some key elements which the research indicates will create a dynamic and purposeful meeting culture.

Have a purpose

Why is the meeting being held? The answers to this question will inform the agenda, structure and style. It helps if the purpose is aligned to the team goals, even in a broad sense. A team meeting is also a perfect opportunity to achieve a lot of things and a chance to catch everyone up on what’s going on in the overall scheme of things – gives the team the big picture context and how this relates to the team.

Set an agenda

If you have a purpose, you need an agenda. This list of things you want to cover will determine how much time can be spent on each item. If an item on the agenda requires more time than is available, it needs to be prioritised, moved to the next meeting or given a meeting of its own. Regular meetings also help provide focus and momentum for the team.

Stay on time

Meetings need to start on time and finish on time. Avoid recapping for people who are late, as this indicates that lateness is OK. Update them after the meeting. Timeliness also relates to following the agenda and being purposeful.

Take minutes (distribute promptly)

Someone should be assigned to take minutes at every meeting (ideally someone different each time). The minutes provide a record of what was discussed and agreed. They help keep everyone in the team aligned and set tasks and time frames for action items.

Create a mindful environment

We don’t mean integrating meditation into your meetings. This simply means making sure everyone is aware and, in the moment, not distracted and wandering mentally. One effective way of doing this is to implement ‘no phone’ periods when discussing the most essential items on the agenda. By doing this you’ll ensure that every minute of the meeting counts toward achieving outcomes.

Paint the bigger picture

Always provide people with a fundamental understanding of where the business is going. Don’t just provide a cursory statement like, “Everything’s good”. Go into detail. The better informed your team, the better decisions they’ll make. Avoid the temptation to launch into long diatribes with too much information. Remember, it’s about getting the broader view.

Encourage participation

A simple way to do this is to have different team members lead the meeting. It’s important that this role is voluntary, so people are in their comfort zone or do so due to a desire to grow and develop in this area. Create a safe environment to encourage contribution. When team members are invited to share ideas, different perspectives emerge. Don’t be quick to shoot new ideas down and commend participants when they volunteer their thoughts.

Celebrate successes

Team meetings provide an excellent opportunity to acknowledge successes for the whole team and individual contributions. Team members are more likely to proactively contribute to tasks and roles if their contribution is valued and appreciated. It doesn’t always need to be a big deal, a simple thanks for specific rather than general contributions will usually do. The key is to be genuine and specific – that way it feels personal.

Make it fun

A simple way of building and maintaining rapport within the team is to have some fun together. Although team meetings need to be purposeful, having personality, a few laughs and celebrating successes all contribute to the effectiveness of a team meeting and connection between team members.

These suggestions and recommendations need to be adopted within the context of your work environment and how your teams and structures are organised. Don’t discount good ideas from team members around what would work well for your meetings. The key is to make the meetings relevant and give them your flavour – it’s a great way to establish your own management style.

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