How much of your time do you spend in meetings? Too much? How often do you leave a meeting thinking you could have used that time better? How often do you look at the clock during a meeting in the hope that time will go faster?
How about designing your meetings to be (unusually different) productive, so that participants arrive early?
Before the team meeting: Good preparation!
Your own attitude.
According to the self-fulfilling prophecy, you can either expect a boring meeting and then find that to be true. Or you can expect an interesting one. So ask yourself before you enter the room: How will I contribute to the success of the meeting today/ we will find a solution/ the team will benefit from it?
Having a meeting agenda is a good start.
Agenda Basics: It is amazing how many meetings there are without an agenda, even though everyone agrees that it’s a good idea. Even if it’s short: Make an agenda! Ask others for input, don’t overfill it, and be clear about what not to discuss during the meeting.
Advanced Agendas: Instead of simply listing topics for the meeting, think in terms of the outcome. What did the team learn, achieve or resolve after the meeting? What is different? What is ideally achieved, what is the minimum?
Agendas for pros: Use questions instead of statements in your agenda. Our brain cannot help but search for answers when confronted with a question. Ideally, you should also formulate the questions in a positive way so that you are looking for the right answers-that is, “How can we make our meeting more productive?” instead of “How can we have less unproductive meetings?”
During your team meeting: Few things to keep ’em productive.
Starting off with some good news puts your and your participants brains into the right state. Positive emotions broaden our attention and increase our creativity and problem solving skills. Here are some questions you can ask:
What’s going well?
What have you achieved that you are proud of since the last meeting?
Who has helped you since the last meeting?
What are you looking forward to next week/next month?
What is the funniest thing someone told you last week?
Name one interesting fact you have learned since the last time.
If you have more than 6 people in the meeting, divide them into groups of two to four people so that this round is not too long and boring.
Keep it kind.
Even if sometimes – depending on your own frustration level – it’s tempting to give in to the bad mood in the team, remember that you want to be a role model for your team. Here are a few No-Gos:
telling/allowing tasteless jokes,
harassing other team members,
entering cynicism and sarcasm (hard, I know!)
bitching about other departments or management.
Such incivilities poison the atmosphere even in small doses and are bad for relationships, trust and ultimately the performance of your employees.
Who will attend your meeting and what are their strengths? If we have the opportunity to do what we’re good at, we are up to 8x more engaged. How can you design the roles and tasks in the meeting so that the participants use their strengths?
Increase the challenge.
Teams get into flow when they solve a challenging task together. Instead of just talking through the agenda, think about how the team can solve a problem together.
For the longer meetings.
If your meeting lasts longer than two hours or even a whole day, try to meet outside the company. You’ll be more productive in such long meetings. Extra tip: get rid of the table, regularly change your seats (and thereby change your perspective), take regular breaks and get some exercise. Use the time spent together for a mini team building in between or plan unplanned time in the agenda to allow room for creativity. Sweets or healthy snacks are always a good idea!
Take silence breaks.
This is probably the ultimate challenge in many companies – just don’t say anything and take time to think and reflect. Set the timer to 2 minutes and ask for silence before you switch from problem description to solution finding. Use this technique in heated discussions that don’t move forward or after making decisions quickly.
After the team meeting: Stay tuned!
Before your participants rush into the next meeting, plan a little more time for a good end to the meeting. Always share your sincere appreciation and show the team how valuable their contribution has been.
To ensure that the productivity of the meeting does not fizzle out, make sure you record all actions/tasks. The more concrete, the better: who does what until when and ask for the status before the next meeting. But beware, if you end up with more than ten actions per person, hardly any of them will be completed. So decide together what the most important ones are and limit them to a maximum of three per person.
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