One of the biggest time-wasters in organizations today is meetings.
There are so many of them, that it can take an army of personal assistants to make sure that everyone arrives at the right place, and at the right time.
To say that there numerous books available about meetings would be an understatement. At present, Amazon.com lists more than 92,000 titles with the word meetings in them. That either means that there’s a lot to say, or that everyone is saying the same thing in many different ways.
You probably don’t have the time to read many of those titles, and that’s why in this article we’re going to look at some things that you should be doing to make yours more effective; especially for teams.
What is a team?
At its root, the problem with team meetings begins with the team itself. From the inside, it has to feel like a team; but from the outside it has to be treated like one.
If either one of these characteristics is not right, then teamwork will never function as it should.
Is a team nothing more than a group of people who happen to be in the same place, more or less, at the same time?
Is a virtual team just a handful of people who work in different time zones?
How does the organization view its teams?
Does it give objectives to the team or to the individuals in it?
Is the team evaluated as a unit, or as individuals?
Team members have to feel that they belong to a group that sets them apart from everyone else.
And when they feel that, then they’ll be ready to take the next step.
At the root of anything a team does are norms.
Norms are a collection of behaviors that each team member commits to keeping.
Here are a few examples:
- Anyone who calls a meeting must publish an agenda in advance. No agenda; no meeting. This prevents any misunderstanding about what will be discussed.
- The start and stop times of the meeting are decided in advance. No such thing as an open-ended meeting. That’s because meetings, like everything else, will expand to fill the time available.
- Everyone must arrive on time, and everyone is free to leave when it’s supposed to stop.
- Everyone must stay on topic.
- Everyone must turn off their mobile phones!
One particularly important team norm is that all of them apply to every team member all of the time. No exceptions.
And that means that the team “polices” itself.
This is one of the primary reasons why teams have to be evaluated as such. Peer pressure to adhere to the agreed norms will have no effect.
And this is a good place to talk about the role of the team leader.
He or she is there for two reasons only. One is to lend a level of expertise that none of the other team members have; and the second is to use his or her position in the organization to interdict between the team and senior managers.
But outside of those two exceptions, a team leader is nothing more than another team member.
What is a meeting?
It’s not as straightforward as you might think.
Far too many people treat a meeting as an opportunity for them to talk at a group of people until they can’t think of anything else to say.
That’s not a meeting; that’s a briefing.
And like all briefings, the information that people need from it can be communicated more effectively via a written communication.
A meeting, on the other hand, is a consultation.
It’s based on a relationship; and like all relationships, there is interaction.
In a team meeting, members exchange ideas spontaneously.
There’s also no hierarchy, because the participants are colleagues.
How can teams have effective meetings?
Here are some suggestions for making team meetings effective:
- Be sure that a meeting is necessary. Everyone’s time is valuable.
- Keep them brief: 15-20 minutes. Or, if you feel you need more time, try 50 minutes – intentionally 10 minutes shy of one hour to allow time for participants to get to their next meeting.
- Have them often. Some teams meet every day.
- Discuss one or perhaps two topics. It’s like eating an elephant.
- Adhere to the norms
Meetings are a means to an end; not an end in themselves.
If you use them for their intended purpose, then they’ll always be effective.