How to Make Team Meetings Less Painful Than a Root Canal

If you manage 2 or more employees, it’s a good idea to
have regular team meetings. Team meetings encourage collaboration, a sense of
belonging and identity, help coordinate interdependent work, and from the
employee’s perspective, are a good opportunity to get fed and break up the
routine of the day.

However, with poor strategy and planning, team meetings
can also be a horrible waste of time and the subject of angst and ridicule from
your team members. They can be as painful as a two-hour root canal!

One way to reap the benefits of a good team meeting and
avoid the scorn of your team is to be thoughtful about how you use them.

Here are 5 good reasons to have a team meeting:

1. To
solve problems, make decisions, or develop a plan.
This is the #1 reason to get any group together! Teeing
up a meaty topic for everyone to get involved with harnesses the collective
wisdom of your team, creates a culture of collaboration and teamwork, and can
be energizing. For this to be effective, ALL members of the team need to be
able to contribute. The problem, decision, or plan has to be something that
affects the entire team and that
everybody has some expertise to contribute. If not, take it “off-line” with a
sub-set of your team.

Allow enough time – at least an hour. 1-2 of these is
usually enough for any routine team meeting, given the amount of energy required
to work through meaty issues.

2. To
make important, timely announcements.

Timing is important here. You don’t want to withhold
critical information just because it’s not time for your scheduled team
meeting. You want to disseminate that stuff ASAP. Sometimes, however,
organizations need to control when information is released – they want
everybody to get it at the same time. Doing this at a team meeting allows the
opportunity for everyone to hear it (not just read it), ask questions, and
discuss implications.

To share information that would be of interest to all team members.

This one’s a tricky balance. What’s interesting and
important to 3 team members might be boring and irrelevant to 3 others.
Sometimes as a leader you feel like you can’t win! Your team will tell you they
want to know what’s going on in the rest of the team, but their reaction and
body language tells a different story. The key is to put some time limits and
boundaries around team member info sharing. For example, you might ask each
team member to come prepared to give a brief (1-2 minutes each) update of the
top 2-3 things they are working one. Or, ask everyone to share one “win”, one
thing they learned, one customer problem they solved and how, a new piece of
technology, etc….

After a while, switch it up so it stays interesting.

Team (or maybe individual) recognition.

Team meetings are a great way to celebrate big and little
accomplishments! This is where food comes into play. Ice cream sundaes, a
platter of cookies, whatever…make it fun, do it often, and mix it up.

As for individual recognition – again, this one’s hit and
miss. Some like it and some hate it. You might want to ask each team member how
they prefer to be recognized.


Most people are social learners. Bring in a guestspeaker, show a short video, demonstrate a new app or piece of
technology/equipment, etc… Get team members involved, build better
interdepartmental relationships, and learn as a team!

On the other hand, here are 5 things NOT to do at a team

Manage individual performance.

My all-time numero uno team meeting pet peeve. This is
when the manager asks each team member to bring status reports or goal updates
to the meeting. The manager then grills each team member, provides suggestions,
solves problems, makes decisions, etc… while the rest of the team fiddles with
their smart phones and waits for their turn on the hot seat. This is lazy
management! Team meetings are no substitute for regular one-on-one meetings
with each team member. While this may seem like an efficient use of your time
as a manager, it’s a waste of time for your team.

Share information that could otherwise be shared with an email.

This stuff is typically “agenda filler” – the manager
scheduled a 90 minute meeting and had 30 minutes to kill.

Be late.

I’m talking about a manager, due to their very important busy schedule, breezes
into their own team meeting 5-10 minutes late! It’s a slap in the face of your
team members. Unfortunately, it happens all the time.

Have the meeting without anything from the 1-5 list above just because the
meeting it’s on the calendar. 

If this is the case, cancel it! However, shame on you if
you can’t think of anything from that list above. That usually means you didn’t
start thinking about the meeting until the day before (or 10 minutes before).

Try to cram too many items
(even if they are in the list of 5
things above) into too little time.

While this one’s not as bad as meeting filler and fluff,
rushing through important agenda items or not getting to important stuff leaves
the team feeling frustrated. Think about the agenda – try to visualize what a
great, engaging meeting would look like – and design agendas as if you’re planning
an important event. It is important,

Following these guidelines won’t guarantee that your team
will look forward to every team meeting like they look forward to quitting time
on Friday, but at least they will rank them more favorable than root canals and
performance reviews.