Poor meetings can threaten your team’s performance. Learn how to make yours efficient, useful and productive.

Ever wonder what your team members are thinking at the end of a meeting? You might be scared to ask. While meetings are an essential part of operating a high-performance organization, many lack the focus necessary to accomplish great things.

In fact, according to Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team, poor meetings have a hand in nearly every major threat to a team’s performance. Read on to learn what your team may be thinking during meetings, and helpful strategies to create an efficient and effective environment.

No. 1: Don’t waste my time.

Besides the obvious impact of lost time doing actual work, productivity is further reduced when necessary decisions aren’t made timely. One meeting becomes three, plus additional side conversations and emails, and before long, what could have been solved in an hour has taken three weeks to build momentum (or it fizzles entirely). This lack of momentum can cause a team to miss crucial sales targets, marketing promotion deadlines and prolong service issues, to name a few. 

The best way to avoid this is to set your meeting’s intention before going in. Be sure that meeting participants know exactly what the meeting’s purpose is, and what you must accomplish by the end.  Ask team members to consider relevant issues, problems, and possible solutions before coming to the meeting, so that by the time you come together, you can maximize your time together working through solutions. One way to do this is to develop a structure for the way issues are handled. This could include writing up an issue ahead of time so that it’s clearly articulated and using a format for discussing issues as a group that includes describing the problem in no more than three sentences. Leave time for questions, solution brainstorming, and decision-making—and remember to make sure someone polices the process so the group stays on track and decisions get made.

No. 2: You never listen to me.

Lack of commitment, argues Lencioni, is a key threat to your team’s performance. Without having bought in team members, decisions won’t gain necessary traction. If a team doesn’t feel heard, they’re certainly not going to buy in. It’s important, especially with today’s young workforce, to tap in to their potential by allowing them to help make decisions about their work. While this can be accomplished in many ways, in a meeting, you can bring out the best in your people by involving them in solving facility problems. In addition to setting a problem-solving process, consider taking a leaf out of our Chief Operating Officer, Chris Johnson’s book, and require that team members who wish to voice a problem must also come prepared with at least one proposed solution to be considered by the group.

Asking your team members to bring potential solutions is smart—it helps them use (and develop!) their own critical thinking skills. It also helps the rest of the team welcome the feedback because they won’t see their coworker simply complaining, but actively trying to resolve team challenges. An added bonus— ideas often beget more ideas and once the first is laid out, you’ll find others jump in with their own thoughts, which just bring out the best in everyone. Finally, the team, (or the manager in some cases) can make a decision. 

And while not everyone’s solution will be adopted, team members are more likely to commit to the outcome if they’ve had the opportunity to share their thoughts and be part of the decision. Once decisions are made, remember to consider the “so what?” factor to avoid the next pitfall of “nothing ever changes around here.”

No. 3: Nothing ever changes. 

Without a good meeting structure, it’s difficult not only to get team members to buy in, but also to establish accountability which can result in one of the most destructive ideas a team member can have about your business—that nothing ever changes. To build a strong structure of accountability, make sure you’re disciplined enough with your process to follow through on your decisions. Throughout the meeting, consider using a flip chart or white board to capture decisions and next steps, and then check progress in follow up meetings. Compile regular projects somewhere visible, like a Google Sheet that your team has access to work in at the same time. In follow up meetings, address deadlines to ensure your projects are progressing as they are supposed to. Session recaps should include the following:

  • What decisions were made?
  • What is/are the next step(s)?
  • Who is going to take action?
  • When is the next action due?

No. 4: No one ever tells me anything.

No one likes being left in the dark, but it’s a common occurrence when meetings lack structure. After you’ve captured take-aways from the meeting, address who else needs to know what was decided, and delegate responsibility for the communication. And, as always, follow through!

These are just a few high-impact tweaks that can help you get more time back in your day and make your team feel like meetings are highly productive, useful and efficient.

Have other ideas for productive meetings? Share them with us in the comments or on Twitter!

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