How to make your weekly team meetings more impactful
Feel like you spend half your life in meetings? And they’re a pointless waste of time? You’re not alone. Research shows that workers spend an average of 31 hours monthly in unproductive meetings. The average executive manager attends at least 12 meetings every week. That’s crazy. And many of these are a total waste of time.
So why don’t companies make impactful meetings part of their culture-building? Maybe it’s because there are norms of behaviour that say this is how we run our meetings, and you can’t change it. But we should be able to change this aspect of culture-building. Who wants to waste their time sitting in a meeting they don’t need to attend? Or one that has no point to it?
Successful team meetings are where the rubber hits the road. They’re the living embodiment of your culture. Give me one hour to observe a meeting in your business, and it will tell me everything I need to know about your company.
So how do you create more productive team meetings?
Create a meeting charter.
We suggest you design a meeting charter if you’re set on successful team meetings. It doesn’t take long – twenty minutes max. When we do this with clients, I start by saying, ‘Has anyone been in a meeting that was a waste of their time?’ Every hand goes up. ‘OK’, I say, ‘Now write down the five things that would make the next team meeting amazing for you.’
Then I get them into pairs. They have two minutes to compare and contrast their five with the other person’s. And whittle the ten down to five. Then I get two pairs into four and do the same thing. Finally, everyone comes together to decide on the final list of five. Hey presto! You have a meetings charter. Write it up, sign it collectively, commit to it and hold yourselves accountable. Job done.
Use a ‘Level 10’ Format.
When we’re working on creating more impactful meetings with our clients, we always suggest adopting a Level 10 Format. This is part of the EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) toolkit and can be transformational.
It’s a great framework. There’s a series of check-in points around OKRs and KPIs. Customer and employee feedback and the strategic backlog are discussed in every meeting. Then it moves into IDS (Identify, Discuss, Solve) around specific problems within the team.
The suggestion for timing is 90 minutes – 30 minutes to ensure you’re focusing on the right things and 60 minutes of tactical problem-solving. This works well for weekly team meetings. If you’re revamping your entire meeting cycle, we suggest the following: daily huddles (10 minutes), weekly meetings (90 minutes), monthly meetings (half day), quarterly (whole day) and annual (two days). Get into a rhythm, put these meetings into everyone’s diary for the year and commit.
Introduce a pulse tool.
A pulse tool to measure engagement is critical to successful team meetings. Friday Pulse is our favourite. A regular drumbeat fits so well with a weekly meeting cadence. On Friday, everyone is asked how happy they’ve been that week. Then the results are taken into a team meeting on Monday or Tuesday.
The information gained from Friday Pulse provides good prompts for a team discussion. As well as giving the manager a sense of happiness levels in the team, it enables people to say thank you and discuss where they’re stuck. There’s a chance to share things that are going well and celebrate success along with any frustrations. This can be useful at the beginning of each team meeting.
Start and stop on time.
Ah, yes – time-keeping. This is vital to more impactful meetings. It’s often harder to start on time than it is to finish. People will be coming in from other activities and are often late. But this is a cultural thing. If people are always late, it becomes embedded and is harder to shift.
Why do nearly all organisations set meetings at an hour long? If I’ve got back-to-back meetings, how am I physically going to get from one to the other when one finishes at 12 pm, and the other begins at the same time? Unless they’re in the same room. Set your meetings tech to default to 25 or 50-minute blocks. Allow an extra five or ten minutes to check up on emails, move location or just go to the toilet!
Finishing on time should be sacrosanct – a hard-stop rule. Again, it’s a cultural thing. How often have I waited for a meeting with clients to start? When people finally turn up, they say, ‘Sorry, my last meeting overran.’ Because the most senior person in the room didn’t finish on time, no one else felt they could drop off either. This tells me the team lacks psychological safety because people felt unable to say they had other important places to be. Or even that they just needed the loo before their next meeting.
Share the agenda in advance.
I hate agendas. But they can be helpful. A good one should give a structure so, at the beginning of the meeting, you can check whether the agenda still works. If they’re circulated in advance, people can decide if there’s value in their attendance. If there’s enough psychological safety in the team, people will feel able to say they’re not coming.
Start with good news.
We always recommend this. You want to get every successful team meeting off to a good start with some positive discussion. And going around the room means everyone is participating from the beginning. Yes – people may cringe to start with. But they’ll soon get used to it. In no time, starting like this will become second nature.
Maybe use the ‘3, 2, 1’ rule. Three things you’re proud of, two things you’ve learned and one thing you need help with.
Focus on participation and discussion.
Impactful meetings allow every team member to talk, not just the extroverts. Much of this is down to a good Chair, and we suggest rotating this role. Too often, the most senior person chairs, and they’re sh*t at it! If you asked me to pick things I do for fun, chairing meetings is number 177 on the list!
We suggest silent brainstorming. Get people to think independently and write stuff down on Post-it notes. They can then stick these on the wall. The exercise may take a little longer, but you’ll hear from introverts as well as extroverts. Their views are just as valid.
Steer away from status reports, where people drone on about how busy they’ve been. This should be pre-work—a maximum of two pages of A4 submitted in advance.
One of our clients has a great approach to this. They have five main functions in their business and get each one to give their status report on a different day of the week. So Sales send theirs through on a Monday, Finance on a Tuesday etc. Then, when they get to the weekly team meeting, everyone has read all the paperwork beforehand. Too often, all the info is sent out at 5pm on a Thursday for a 9am meeting the following day.
Review key metrics and priorities.
Reviewing key metrics and priorities is a regular feature of a Level 10 meeting. All OKRs should align with the team’s larger mission. Too often, people do things in their silos and don’t think about how this lines up with the BHAG and the purpose of the business.
For metrics, I like a daily flash of the top three. Delivered daily by email, this gives each team member the score on the key metrics you’re tracking. These should be a subset of the Target Operating Model and can be turned into a dashboard. The only metrics that matter are those where the department is red and underperforming. Then there must be some corresponding leading indicators to track during team meetings. You can see that the department has a plan and is sticking to it to get its status back to green.
Set OKRs and action items.
OKRs are one of the best tools for driving business growth. And these should be set and reviewed during weekly team meetings. We like the ‘WWW’ approach – ‘Who, What and When.’ Capture notes in real-time with a record of who is accountable, what they are committing to and when they will do it. These should be outcome- rather than task-based, e.g. instead of, ‘I’m going to send ten emails’, it should be ‘I’m going to win three new clients’.
In the most successful executive teams I’ve worked in, I had an ‘accountability partner’ – another team member I committed to. We agreed to come together regularly, at least once a fortnight, to go through where we were, the progress we’d made and the challenges we were having. We helped each other through cultural changes.
Celebrate wins and achievements.
Sharing success stories is a big part of creating impactful team meetings. Our client, Macquarie Telecom, does this well. They have a ‘Chief Story Officer’ who captures the good news stories in team meetings and shares them with the rest of the company. The best ones are picked and written up as new additions to the ‘Book of Myth and Folklore’ at Macquarie.
This is just one of the many reasons they are one of the best in the world to work for and have an enviable NPS (Net Promoter Score).
Consider celebrating failures as well as achievements. Sounds counter-intuitive? When I was MD of Peer 1 in Southampton, we brought in ‘Cock-up Of The Month’. This was deliberate to build psychological safety in the team. People could put their hands up, knowing there would be no judgement. Otherwise, the mistakes would still happen but be brushed under the carpet.
Always work from the perspective of seeking criticism to gain improvement. So, leave time for people to give feedback at the end of the meeting. How would you rate this meeting on a scale of one to ten? Your aim is for all meetings to be level 10. What feedback would you give to participants? Is it thumbs up or thumbs down — and why? Did the facilitator do a great job or not? Give them some feedback.
Productive meetings should be an essential part of culture-building. Don’t waste people’s time. Put deliberate focus, structure and effort into every opportunity you gather together. This is how you create highly successful team meetings.
- NAVIGATING AND COMMUNICATING CHANGE
- BUILDING COMPANY CULTURE
- CHOOSING THE RIGHT OPPORTUNITIES
- ORGANISING YOUR A-TEAM