10 No Bull Tips on How to Lead a Team Meeting

One of the most important responsibilities of a leader is being able to plan and run an effective team meeting. You would think after having sat through hundreds of meetings as a participant, leaders would pick this up through osmosis and trial and error. Yet, it’s been my experience that the art of running a good staff meeting is a neglected part of even the most senior leader’s development.

There’s plenty of information out there on effective meetings…. go ahead, do a search, and review that stuff. It’s all good. And in addition to those standard best practices, here’s 10 tips you probably won’t find. You may find the tone a little harsh… if it comes across that way, it’s because it’s based on personal experience. That is, I’ve made every one of these dumb mistakes, so I’m just trying to stop you from doing the same. Tough love. (:

1. The single most important thing you can do as a leader to improve your team meetings: adjust your own attitude about meetings. I’m appalled at how many managers, at all levels of the organization, are proud to proclaim their hatred of meetings. OK, so help me understand this. In order to achieve significant results, solve problems, make decisions, inform, inspire, and motivate, we have to work with people. Darn, those pesky people. So, we need to get those people together in a room or on a call and actually talk to each other? If you’re a manager, and you hate talking to people, then what the hell is your job? Sitting in your office with the door shut sending emails?
As a leader, try looking at meetings as the manifestation of leadership. Its leadership show time, not something to dread like a trip to the dentist.

2. Don’t delegate the agenda planning to an admin or another team member. As a leader, it’s your meeting. You don’t just waltz in and react to what someone else has planned.

3. Did I say agenda planning? Yes, hopefully every article you’ve read on effective meetings mentioned agendas. Yet, we still show up to meetings where there is none to found. “Planning” is the other thing that’s often missing. Take the time to think about key decisions that need to be made, information that needs to be communicated, who needs to be at the meeting, timing, etc…. “Winging it” is a waste of your team’s time and tells them you don’t really care.

4. Although it’s your responsibility as a leader to plan the agenda, you can still invite team members to contribute agenda items. Send out a call for agenda items a few days before the meeting.

5. Put a little variety in the format. Here are a few things you can do to mix it up:
– Invite guest speakers
– Celebrate something
– Do a “learning roundtable” – have team members take turn teaching each other something
– Watch a video
– Change locations; go off-site
– Bring in some fun or interesting food
– Have a “single item agenda” meeting
– Do lighting round updates
– Bring food (did I already mention that?)
– Do some brainstorming
– Switch chairs; switch anything to break up the monotony!
– But please, no silly teambuilding activities

6. Don’t try to cram so many items into the agenda that there’s no room for discussion or spontaneity. Allow some “white space” for creativity and engagement.

7. Instead of just sharing information, try actually solving a problem, making a decision, or creating something. Yes, it’s challenging and can be messy, but that’s where we get the most value from meetings. Be ready to just roll the dice and be open to any outcome.

8. Get off your throne and lighten up. Being the leader of a meeting isn’t your chance to rule and flaunt your power. Chastising someone in front of the team is a way to do this. Have a sense of humor and humility.

9. Keep track of action items and make sure people do what they say they are going to do. It’s frustrating to show up to the next meeting and find out half the team didn’t bother doing what you stayed late the night before completing. Follow up and inspect before the meeting, and hold individuals accountable.

10. Lastly, be a role model for the kind of behavior you expect to see from others. Team meetings are not a time to let your guard down and kick back with your team. Hold yourself and your team to the highest standards of conduct, which means no off-color jokes, picking on team members, cynicism and sarcasm, and bashing other departments or management. Think about the kind leader your want to be known for, and then show up to each and every meeting being that leader.

How about you? Agree? Disagree? Anything to add?