While the way we get the work done has undoubtedly changed, the business environment is just as demanding, competitive, and perhaps even more complicated than it was before the Coronavirus. It’s up to leaders to guide the workforce through these changing times to continue meeting production goals.
Reaching your targets is impacted not only by individual performers, but also by the team as a whole, and how well these individuals work together. We all know the drain on productivity that personality conflicts, miscommunication, and conflicting priorities create. And nowhere do these team vulnerabilities present themselves more vividly than in team meetings. As critical as they are to help you move the ball forward, meetings can be fraught with wrong turns and roadblocks that are easily prevented with just a little bit of pre-planning.
Here is a list of simple suggestions to boost your team’s performance during meetings. While hardly all-inclusive, this short list applies to any kind of team meeting you lead, be it a specific project team or a group of direct reports. As you read, keep your specific situation in mind and consider how your employees must now interact with each another. Each suggestion will hinge on what your team members say and do before, during, and after the meeting, and it’s up to you to hold them accountable for demonstrating these behaviors.
New Standards in Meeting Practices
One of the most common places team’s fall apart is in their meetings. This problem is exacerbated by today’s need to rely on virtual platforms. Without standard meeting guidelines, it’s the Wild Wild West out there. It cannot be said often enough – plan ahead to make team meetings productive. We’d suggest creating a checklist with all the new considerations that COVID-19 restrictions have placed upon us. Planning for extra room space based on the number of attendees is a step we didn’t have to take before. Now, we need to consider socially distanced seating, proper PPE, and even limiting access to shared pens, markers and other meeting tools.
In addition to these newer rules, the old tried and true standards still hold and bear repeating:
- On the front end, establish a set of ground rules around interruptions, methods of consensus, and following up on shared agreements.
- Provide an agenda ahead of time so that everyone on the team can weigh in.
- When in the actual meeting, open by stating the meeting purpose clearly, even if you assume that everyone knows why they are attending.
- Assign a meeting note taker and agree on the execution of next steps.
- Start on time, involve everyone with open-ended questions, and wrap up by agreeing on who will do what by when before the next meeting.
If a meeting must take place virtually, here are some additional tips:
- Take attendance with a verbal check in or a raised hand at the beginning of the meeting or at the break.
- Assign a note taker so that everyone else can concentrate on the meeting content.
- If your virtual platform has recording capabilities, record the meeting for those who may not be able to attend.
- Ask people to share their thoughts and ideas. This is always important to do, even when face-to-face, but you’ll need to do this more frequently in a virtual setting.
- Pause longer than usual to allow people to gather their thoughts, come off mute, and respond.
- You may have to call individuals out by name – although this is not a first choice – if you are struggling to get participation, which is typically lower in virtual settings. You may want to plant a few “ready” participants who know they may be called on and so won’t be caught off guard.
If the meeting extends past a break, and this holds true for both face-to-face and virtual meetings, ask someone to summarize before moving forward to remind everyone of the progress you’ve made and pick up any loose ends.
Improvements don’t end here. What you do after the meeting can make a big difference in the team’s actions.
- Issue a link to the recording.
- Send out powerpoint slides or other visuals if the meeting included these.
- Ask for additional input after the meeting on a team chat site or intranet. Make sure everyone updates this location as they make progress on their action items.
- Ask employees to rate their satisfaction with the meeting on a simple 5-point scale using 5 as “very satisfied” and 1 if the group interactions need “significant improvement.” You can gather this data via email to maintain a touch-free poll, but still gather information that can be acted upon for your next gathering.
Meetings are just one of the many processes that have no doubt changed in your workplace. Keep in mind these simple, yet effective ways we can continue to improve on them for the sake of maximizing team performance.
Contact IMEC with questions or for further guidance.