How to Run Effective Team Meetings
We have all been in a meeting that was a complete and total waste of our time. They either drag on, don’t cover any topic relevant to us, do not have a set purpose (like stupid “check-ins” that have no rhyme or reason), or they go on and on with endless possibilities with no concrete next steps.
It’s so fucking annoying, especially if your workload is bigger than the hours in the day.
I worked with clients some time ago in the UK and they just LOVED having meetings. They literally met on any and every subject they could think of. Their office was an open floor plan with a desk upon a desk in a small space so they could all talk and communicate throughout the day. Freaking so distracting.
Then they had two conference rooms, one of which was covered in whiteboards. The first time I saw it I fell in love with the room and wanted to build one in my house. It was phenomenal for planning or brainstorming…
I quickly came to loathe that room. It was the worst. Four or five of the favorite staff members would go in there for “effective staff meetings”. I shit you not, one time they spent 2 hours with four people, plus my time, just discussing the rain. They had a tin roof and whenever it rained, it made way too much noise. They literally could not take calls because the noise was so loud and distracting you couldn’t hear anything.
I quickly suggested we replace the roof…shot down instantly…
They came up with about 40 absolutely ridiculous ideas on how to make the rain “less noisy” during the day. None of them made any sense, nor did they act on any of them during the full year they were our clients.
When their lead tech guy and I walked out he looked at me and said “welcome to hell”, smiled, and walked away. Later that night he and I were grabbing dinner together before returning to my Airbnb. We chatted about the “tin roof” meeting and that is when he informed me that three of the owners did that almost every day. On a variety of topics none of which ever moved the needle for the organization.
I was there for three weeks…
Every day was a new meeting to either throw a wrench in a plan we already came up with or to discuss something ridiculous like, “someone is smoking a vape pen in the restroom”.
Needless to say, after my second visit, I refused to go visit them as I could not get any work done when I was there. They wanted to talk about everything but never had any next steps or action points associated with the topics.
Running Effective Meetings
Meetings do not have to be a waste of time, in fact, you can create systems in your organization that mean that meetings are ONLY effective and efficient uses of your and your team member’s time.
Any meeting you run should not just be “informative”. Informative = total waste of time. If you do not need to discuss or create the next steps it should be an email. If the context is important, make a Loom for your staff to review at the time and speed they choose as long as they hit it by the deadline you set.
Teach your staff that when the subject line reads: IMPORTANT INFORMATION and it’s on a group thread they should not respond “reply all” with anything outside of questions that relate to the topic you’ve presented to them.
Sales meetings are the only types of meetings that do not need to be action steps driven. Selling the same old same still requires a meeting to get your people fired up. Sales meetings are imperative to some businesses so just discount those as I’m walking through running an effective meeting. Totally different situation.
So let’s talk about this for a moment.
There are all kinds of reasons to have a meeting. It may be project-based, perhaps you have a new client that you need to discuss with your team. Maybe there is a new product you are about to launch. No matter what the meeting is about there should be a set beginning time and a set end time.
Really think through how much time you need from your people and set 15 minutes extra. Do NOT under any circumstances allow meetings to run over. Determine the key people that you will need to move forward if you were unable to resolve and book another meeting.
This shows your staff their time is valuable to you. If it is not valuable to you then it will not be to them. One of your company’s philosophies should be to use time just as you would a resource like money…after all, you are paying for it.
Do you want to have better meetings?
At Shockwave we have an all-company meeting EVERY week. They last no longer than 90 minutes and have a very specific agenda. We call these meetings Breakers. All of the branding on this meeting and in our foundational operational framework WAVE comes from surfing terms.
Quick shout out to my visionary and friend Meredith Shirk who gave me the idea of relating business strategies and frameworks to surfing…more on that later.
A breaker is a point in a wave’s flow where it breaks… so simply, we break from working in the business and meet to work on the business.
We do a super quick: around-the-table check-in.
Each of my staff tells me about a big win, personal or professional, or a big failure where they learned a valuable lesson. That takes no more than five minutes.
Then we run through the goals each person was assigned at the beginning of the quarter.
Are they on track? Yes or No? Yes…Move on. No? Write it down. We will talk about it later in the meeting.
Next, we move on to movers. Movers are a to-do list. They go from one meeting to another. Movers get us moving, closer, and closer to our goals.
Movers should pretty much all be completed each week. This is a great way to stay on top of your people without micromanaging them. There is nothing worse than getting to the end of a quarter and finding out that nothing has moved forward on a quarterly goal.
Movers let you see what milestones are being achieved. It allows you to sum up if there need to be any adjustments either in strategy or staff.
Once we have completed our movers we move on to headlines. These can be done per department or per person if you are a small business where someone wears several hats. The intentionality behind headlines is to hear briefly and quickly what each person is working on.
Once we get past all that, we want to review our “signals”. Signals are gestures, simply put they are something that everyone needs to have their eyes on. It may be a strategy that is not working, perhaps it was taken from the quarterly goals because they are not on track, from the movers because they were not completed, or maybe someone on your team added it because they are going on an extended vacation and needs to make sure they are covered. Whatever it is, this should take up the bulk of your meeting.
Put your signals in order of priority and start working through them. Working one by one, on the order of priority review each one until solved, or the next steps are created. Speak in action steps. This is the longest part of the meeting and SHOULD take up ⅔ of it.
Given the space and time to discuss signals your staff will struggle less, achieve more, and stay on track!
When we talk about signals we should always end each topic with an action step.
So the resolution is…
The next steps are…
Never leave an open loop.
This can simply be…
Next step: Emma needs to review this issue with Travis and determine what to do next.
A meeting between Richard and Emma needs to take place by Monday so they can solve or adjust…
We are ALWAYS in action with our meeting and we are ALWAYS moving forward.
If you want to spend 20 minutes telling your staff about some golf swing you’ve mastered, do it during “water cooler time”.
Do not just allow people to bring up problems or issues just to talk about them. Come up with solutions that should always have the next steps…
Now…Next steps become the next meeting’s MOVERS…Get it?
Let me know your questions about running effective meetings!