Team meetings a drag? Here are three easy to follow ways to make them better.
I’ve spent the last few years exploring productivity across many leading companies. While out talking with various people, a surprising theme became clear: most people don’t have a vision of how to run a good team meeting. Despite holding these meetings every week, people don’t pay attention to the team dynamics of what happens during these meetings. The net result is that they become an energy drain for everyone involved.
Through our interviews of the most productive leaders for the Work Smarter Series, we have started to deconstruct the best elements of successful team meetings and have identified three prominent patterns. The patterns that emerged provide a useful strategy to keep teams engaged during meetings, and results in more productive and higher-performing teams after the meetings end.
Three Simple Strategies to Fix Meetings:
Start the meeting with a Navy Seal Test
Transition to your Suspense Thriller portion
End with a Pep Rally
If you don’t raise the bar, progress stagnates.
Navy Seal Test
To run a good team meeting, you have to be able to drive results and measure progress. Start the meeting by focusing in on a small set of important goals you are measuring (custom tailored to each team member). To drive progress you first have to measure, and continually push people to raise the bar on these goals. This part of the meeting should feel like a Navy Seal fitness test. The team should be aware of the most important goals and should come prepared to share quantifiable updates on them. If today your team member reported closing 75 contracts, next week’s meeting should target 80. If you don’t raise the bar, progress stagnates. The best leaders achieve this by having each team member share their progress on a well-defined set of metrics in front of their peers so that the team can get used to holding each other accountable. Revenue pipeline meetings are a great example of this style of meeting, but this principle should be applied beyond Sales.
- Pro Tip: Many leaders require that everyone send out their updates along this line as a pre-read. This takes an extra level of discipline, but gets everyone on the same page, drives better preparation, and delivers focus.
A couple of words of caution on metrics:
- a) you get what you measure, so make it count.
- b) identify leading metrics and not lagging metrics so you can stay ahead of the trends in your business and not behind.
- c) just because it can be measured doesn’t mean it should be measured – look for the metrics that drive the business and give you leverage. The rest is noise.
Each discussion is different than the previous one
If every week, your team enters a meeting where you will review other people’s metrics, things become too predictable. People start zoning out when others are presenting, especially when much of the data could be made available in a pre-read. The best way to get around this is to leverage your team for making decisions that are important, strategic, and that require collective input.
- Pro Tip: Many leaders create a list of important strategic topics that need to get discussed, and these are scheduled in advance (when possible). The advantage of this? A leader can be assigned to the topic so that there is sufficient prep-work on framing the problem, collecting the data, and presenting alternatives, allowing more efficient discussion and decision-making.
This section of the meeting tends to drive much better engagement. Each discussion is different than the previous one, and helps push the teams to become a connected, engaged, high-performance group. It also builds trust and mutual understanding of complex decisions. We call this aspect a suspense thriller because the audience participates but they don’t know what that ultimate outcome will be. As important as this is, we wouldn’t advise only having team meetings that are suspense thrillers. You need the more predictable components that come with metrics to make sure people don’t constantly shift their focus to the discussion of the day. The Navy Seal test portion of the meeting helps create that stability, continuity, and focus and compliments the suspense thriller portion.
The pep rally component acknowledges that every team member needs to be a source of energy for their teams.
So far, we have focus and engagement, but we also need a way to inject the team with the kind of energy that lasts beyond the meeting and helps power team members beyond the individuals in the meeting. Adding a portion of the meeting which resembles a pep rally toward the end of your meeting is a great way to energize the team so that they carry that energy to the rest of the company. I have seen some of the best leaders keep a team excited by carefully crafting the relevant achievements each week to share with the team. Don’t fake it, this must be authentic, and must draw on real achievement. By doing this, a team has a chance to celebrate it’s progress while also pointing out areas of improvement. This type of meeting tends to be very natural for the go-to-market teams. Other teams might take some additional coaxing to unlock their inner cheerleaders.
- Pro Tip: The best highlights tend to be ones that come from external validations – like a customer, partner, or prospect. It also has to be followed by or tempered by an identification of where the team can improve. One strong leader I have worked with used to end this section by saying: “Stay humble, keep improving”
Pulling it all Together
These 3 simple traits create a strong healthy meeting dynamic and a cohesive high-performance team.
- The Navy Seals component shows everyone that they have to perform, that they have to share that performance, and that as a team, they should all hold each other accountable. As a result, team members never want to let each other down. This also moves the focus from subjective behaviors (like playing nice to curry favor) to more objective measures (like improving performance). This is a necessary component of a high-performing team. It is necessary but not sufficient.
- The suspense thriller component of the meeting is also needed because it keeps the team engaged together. Without this, it is entirely possible for each team member to improve their personal performance without really leveraging the full team. The thriller portion of the meeting gives the team an opportunity to deploy its collective intelligence. It also helps the team make better decisions while keeping everyone engaged.
- The pep rally component acknowledges that every team member needs to be a source of energy for their teams. The pep rally allows you to train your team that it is important to celebrate the successes and that each leader should energize their team while also staying humble enough to identify the areas for improvement.
As the CEO of Workfit, I’ve found this meeting playbook a great way to create high-performance, collaborative, and energized teams. What do you think? Share your key elements to running an effective meeting in the comments below.