Tag: Team Meetings

How to Plan Small Team Meetings

How to Plan Small Team Meetings

Small team meetings could either be productive or total waste of time. Team members may come unprepared to share or participate. If your meeting does not have clear goals, objectives, and a clear time frame for each topic, you will surely lose control of the meeting and waste time trying to keep the team on track.

Related: Making the Most of Team Meetings

Having a set approach to planning small team meetings will assure that you will set up your meeting to be the most efficient and effective. Here is a quick checklist for planning a small meeting:

 Purpose defined: your team meeting should have a purpose. What is the reason for the meeting? What is this meeting going to accomplish? Defining the purpose will even help you determine if a meeting is necessary. Many times there are team meetings called to share updates. This could be accomplished with a simple presentation sent via email. Subjecting project teams to constant update meetings decreases the power of the meeting in general. Save your meeting time for brainstorming, problem solving, etc.

Objective of the team meeting determined: state what the result or outcome of this meeting will produce. For example, you could say that the objective of this meeting is to brainstorm ideas for overcoming the shortage of widgets. If you have several objectives, set time limits for discussing each objective. If the objective is complicated, then use the entire meeting time to resolve it, but try writing an agenda that will keep you on track of the topics you need to cover.

People to attend identified: once you set your objective, then you are able to determine who to invite. If major decisions are going to be made, then invite the right audience.

Checklist of supplies created: you may need flip charts and other items or resources to facilitate the team meeting.

Organize the resources: make sure all resources on your checklist are available and in working order. Make appointments with those you need to meet in order to acquire the resource.

Reserve a place or room: make sure you contact the keeper of the room schedule. Reserve the room well in advance to avoid being blocked from that room. Make sure you get confirmation of the reservation.

Notify the attendees: send a meeting invite to those attending the team meeting with at least a few days’ notice. Try avoiding last-minute meetings. In your message, state the meeting’s purpose, objective and place it will be held. Be professional in your invitation and avoid being too casual.

 

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Addressing Team Dysfunction During Meetings

Addressing Team Dysfunction During Meetings

All teams have the potential to be dysfunctional: incapable of achieving goals. This is because each person is different, and each team has their own unique history. A team leader must know how to recognize signs of team dysfunction, and be skilled to address them.

Related: Making the Most of Team Meetings

Using Ground Rules to Prevent Dysfunction

One of the best ways a team leader can anticipate problems in a team discussion is to set ground rules. Ground rules orient participants with what is expected from them. Moreover, they set boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behavior during the discussion. For best results, ground rules must be set in a consultative fashion, with the rules, and sometimes the consequences of violation of rules, negotiated among the members of the team and agreed upon by consensus.

When setting ground rules, it is important to both verify if the rules are understood, and if they are acceptable. Make sure too that a documentation of the ground rules is available for everyone, either as a hand-out or posted in a flipchart paper for everyone to see.

Ground rules in a team meeting can relate to:

  • How to make the most of the meeting. For example: practice timely attendance, participate fully.
  • How to make a contribution to the discussion. For example: do the members raise their hands and ask the facilitator for permission to speak; use I-messages.
  • How members should treat other members. For example: “don’t interrupt whoever is speaking, listen actively to whoever has the floor, accept that everyone has a right to their own opinion, no swearing or any aggressive behavior.
  • Issues relating to confidentiality. Example: all matters discussed in the team shall remain within the team. This is also the moment for the facilitator to reveal if the minutes of the meeting will remain solely for his or her reference, or will it be given to an authority in the organization.
  • How violations of ground rules would be addressed. Example: the use of graduated interventions from warning to expulsion from the team.

Restating and Reframing Issues

The way an issue or problem is phrased can influence team members’ attitudes towards it. After all, different words have different meanings and connotations.  A simple example is the difference between the words “problem” and “challenge” in reference to a situation, or “victim” and “survivor” in reference to a person.

Restatement is similar to paraphrasing; it is changing the wording of an issue, but the main idea is the same. For example: simply changing “this suggestion seems to have made some members of the group angry”, to “there seems to be a strong concerns about the suggestion” can lessen the antagonistic nature of the statement.

Reframing is similar to restatement, except reframing goes deeper. In reframing, a team leader changes the way a problem is conceptualized in order to facilitate a consensus or support a conflict resolution.  In some cases, the problem is reframed in order to support the position of two parties in contention. The meaning may or may not change, but the spirit of the statement remains the same. For example, instead of saying “we’re here to talk about how to approach salary cuts,” a team leader can say “we’re here to talk about how the company can provide employee security despite limited funds.”

In team facilitation, simply restating or reframing an issue can lessen the adversarial nature of a position, or invite a fresh way of looking at things. When the issue is phrased in neutral or workable terms, it becomes conducive to a reasonable discussion.

How can a facilitator successfully re-state or reframe an issue? The main skill necessary for these processes is active listening. An effective facilitator must be sensitive to what each party needs and be able to incorporate these interests when phrasing an issue. Having an appreciation of the language of the team, and their unique perspective, are also important in this process.

Some of the ways of restating and reframing includes:

  • Changing “hot buttons” or value-laden words into neutral ones.
  • Reminding the team of larger goals/ smaller goals the entire team is working on.
  • Changing a problem into workable terms.
  • Approaching an issue from another perspective.

Getting People Back on Track

A team discussion can go off-topic for many reasons. Sometimes, the purpose of the meeting wasn’t really clear. In other times, the discussion naturally led to an interesting issue not part of the agenda. And in other times, there are individuals who initiate and maintain off-topic discussions.

Regardless of the reason, the following are ways to get a discussion back on track:

  • Review the agenda. A facilitator can create check points in the agenda and constantly refer to it as the discussion progresses. For example: “Let’s take a moment to take a process check. Are we still following our agreed upon agenda?”
  • Reflect to the team what is happening, and reintroduce the correct topic. Example: “I appreciate the participation and enthusiasm. But it seems that we have gone off the agreed upon agenda. I believe the topic under discussion is…”
  • Offer to put the off-topic on a “parking lot” for possible later discussion. For example: “You raised a good point Mary. Maybe we can look at that later it today, or set a separate meeting for it.”
  • Ask the team if they are finding the discussion helpful to the goal. This intervention is recommended for unstructured meetings, where a foray into an off-topic is not necessarily a negative thing. For example: “I noticed that there has been a long debate in the team about this idea. Is this discussion helpful for everyone?”
  • Ignore the off-topic discussion and reintroduce the correct topic. If you feel that acknowledging a topic detour will just result in more dysfunction (e.g. it will provoke a long, defensive response), then it may be best to just ignore it. Instead, summarize the last thing that was said related to the topic, and ask a question that continues from it. For example: “If I may get back to what Louis was saying earlier. He said….Does anyone agree with his observation?”

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Making Sure Team Meetings Are Not Time Wasters

Making Sure Team Meetings Are Not Time Wasters

“The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.” – Thomas Sowell

Team meetings are often seen as nothing but time wasters. Few people look forward to team  meetings, and with good reason. Too many meetings lack purpose and structure. However, with just a few tools, you can make any team meeting a much better use of everyone’s time.

Related: Making the Most of Team Meetings

Deciding if a Team Meeting is Necessary

The first thing you need to decide is if a formal meeting is necessary. Perhaps those morning meetings could be reduced to a few times a week instead of every day, or maybe they could take place over morning coffee and be more informal.  If a formal meeting is necessary, divide your attendees into two groups: participants and observers. Let people know what group they belong in so that they can decide whether they want to attend. If you send out a report after the meeting, that may be enough for some people.

Related: Time Management Outcome Based Team Building Activities

How to Prepare for and Schedule Team Meetings

We use the PAT approach to prepare for and schedule team meetings.

Purpose: What is the purpose of the meeting? We usually state this in one short sentence. Example: “This meeting is to review the new invoice signing policy.” This helps people evaluate if they need to be there. It will also help you build the agenda and determine if the meeting was successful.

Agenda: This is the backbone of the team meeting. It should be created well in advance of the meeting, sent to all participants and observers, and be used during the meeting to keep things on track.

Time frame: How long will the meeting be? Typically, meetings should not exceed one hour. (In fact, we recommend a fifty minute meeting, starting at five past the hour and ending five minutes before the hour.) If the team meeting needs to be longer, make sure you include breaks, or divide it into two or more sessions.

Building the Agenda

Before the team meeting, make a list of what needs to be discussed, how long you believe it will take, and the person who will be presenting the item.  Once the agenda is complete, send it to all participants and observers, preferably with the meeting request, and preferably two to three days before the meeting. Make sure you ask for everyone’s approval, including additions or deletions. If you do make changes, send out a single updated copy 24 hours before the meeting.

Keeping The Team Meeting on Track

Before the team meeting, post the agenda on a flip chart, whiteboard, or PowerPoint slide. Spend the first five minutes of the meeting going over the agenda and getting approval. During the meeting, take minutes with the agenda as a framework.

Your job as chairperson is to keep the meeting running according to the agenda. If an item runs past its scheduled time, ask the team if they think more time is needed to discuss the item. If so, how do they want to handle it? They can reduce the time for other items, remove other items altogether, schedule an offline follow-up session, or schedule another meeting. No matter what the team agrees to, make sure that they stick to their decision.

At the end of the meeting, get agreement that all items on the agenda were sufficiently covered. This will identify any gaps that may require follow-up and it will give the team a positive sense of accomplishment about the meeting.

Making Sure the Meeting Was Worthwhile

After the team meeting, send out a summary of the meeting, including action items, to all participants and observers, and anyone else who requires a copy. Action items should be clearly indicated, with start and end dates, and progress dates if applicable. If follow-up meetings were scheduled, these should also be communicated.

Alternatives to Meetings

Sometimes, a face-to-face meeting isn’t the best solution. The following are some alternatives to meetings that can help you and your team save time and be more productive.

Instant Messaging and Chat Rooms

Instant message applications and chat rooms can be a great alternative to meetings, especially if meeting members are separated by distance.

Teleconferencing

If more personal contact and real-time sharing are needed, try a teleconferencing system like Adobe’s Acrobat.com, Microsoft Live Meeting, or Citrix’s GoToMeeting.

Email Lists and Online Groups

If your meeting group requires ongoing, interactive communication, rather than periodic face-to-face gatherings, an e-mail list, forum, or online group can be an effective tool.

A few things to keep in mind if you are going to use this sort of solution:

Having a moderator is essential. These types of tools can quickly get out of control without proper supervision. You’ll want to make sure members stay on topic and stay professional.

Make sure you monitor the time spent on these tools. Setting a daily or weekly update or delivery time might be a good idea.

Just like a meeting, an online list or group should have a purpose and stick to it.

 

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How to Encourage Participation in Team Meetings

How to Encourage Participation in Team Meetings

In your team meetings, you are more likely to reach consensus if everybody is participating in the discussions. The following are some suggestions to help you encourage participation in your team meetings.

Provide preparation guidelines before the team meeting

In your meeting invitation; include some guidelines of what to review and study in preparation of the meeting. Allowing your team members to prepare beforehand will give them confidence to add something to the discussion. You can also include guide questions with the meeting invitation.

Encourage participation from everyone at the start of the meeting

Right from the start of the meeting, you should make it clear to your team members that participation is not just welcome but an integral part of the decision making process. This is often all that is required to get all the team members to participate. The participation of the team members is likely to lead to lively discussions regarding the topic of the meeting.

Acknowledge each team member’s contribution

Show that you have heard and understood a contribution by acknowledging a response in verbal and non-verbal ways. Verbal ways of acknowledging contributions include praising, clarifying or requesting more information. You can praise a contribution by using words such as “I am glad you brought that up” or “That is a good point”. To acknowledge a contribution by clarifying you would use words as “You suggested that” and “Is this correct”. “Tell us more” and “Please go on” are examples of ways you can acknowledge a response by requesting more information.  Making eye contact, nodding and leaning forward are all non-verbal ways to acknowledge a contribution by a team member.

Do not discount contributions

Be aware how you respond to a contribution so that it is not interpreted as devaluing the contribution. Never ignore a contribution made by one of your team members. Examples of responses that discount a contribution are “That was already said”, “That is irrelevant”, “Is that it? Is there anything else?”

Ask directly for contributions

An effective way of encouraging participation in team meetings is to ask everyone directly for their opinion on the topic that is being discussed. Some examples of how you can do this are “Can I get everyone’s opinion” or “Lets share all our ideas.”

Build on the contributions

Encourage participation in the team meeting by integrating each member’s contribution with the contributions of the other members or the whole group. Similarities and differences can be highlighted, and you can point out how each point relates to another. This also helps the discussion to move along and helps individual contributions to be seen as part of the whole.

Some ways to build on contributions include:

  • Help the team members to see that their concerns are shared with questions such as “Who else has felt this way?”
  • Make verbal connections to what individual team members say and feel with statements such as  “John thinks there should be another meeting. This seems similar to what Jane was saying a while ago.”
  • Involve the whole team in the discussion by using redirecting questions such as “What is your thinking about that?” or “How do you feel about Mike’s idea?”

Intentionally keeping silent in the meeting

You can encourage participation in the meeting by intentionally keeping quiet and waiting for some response from the team members. If the group is eager to participate you will not have to wait long for a lively discussion to start.

Thank your team for their participation

Always affirm your team for their participation. Making a point of thanking each member for their contribution will encourage greater involvement in succeeding meetings.

Image Credit: geralt

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