Meetings, while a necessary part of the office environment, often cut into the available time workers have to keep up with daily workflow and stay on top of deadlines. When we invite team members to meetings that lack direction and vitality, their understandable boredom can easily cause resentments and frustration—and tarnish your credibility. To avoid being seen as the bad guy or the boring guy, keep these guidelines in mind the next time you host your next status meeting.
- Take the bored out of the boardroom
To stimulate creativity and interest, find ways to modify the meeting’s physical environment. Have everyone sit in beanbags; push the conference room table against the wall and arrange chairs in a circle; meet outside, weather permitting, or at a nearby coffee shop. Even a slight change in one’s physical surroundings can trigger fresh perspectives and attitudes. Breaking away from the expected meeting-room formalities can set the stage for fresh input and stimulate increased interaction among attendees. The freedom to move around—to be freed from the same chair, the same spot at the table, the same leader-participant dynamic—can stimulate your team toward unique thinking, fuel conversations and encourage new perspectives.
- Never, ever go over one hour
Limit the time you allot to weekly status meetings. Rather than defaulting to the common hour-long session, try limiting yourself to 30 minutes; you might be surprised by how much you can accomplish by starting on time and staying focused on your agenda. And as needed, set up targeted meetings with specific individuals on the team that focus on their needs and challenges, thereby freeing up members who aren’t directly affected so they can attend to their individual tasks. As meeting leader, one of your first concerns should be the effective use of time—both yours and your team’s.
- Bring in guest speakers
Remember when you were in college and your professor would bring in guest lecturers? It was like a breath of fresh air that provided the entire classroom a break from the daily grind. Apply the benefits of that approach in your weekly status meeting by periodically inviting product experts, SMEs, senior executives or other respected individuals to provide insights about their area of expertise. Ask them to limit their presentation to 15 minutes and explain how your team can benefit from the information. Not only will your attendees feel more engaged, the experience will help break down those all-too-common corporate silos.
- Consider the scrum
A popular alternative to weekly status meetings are short daily scrum meetings in which the following three questions are asked of each attendee:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- Are there any impediments in your way?
- The daily scrum provides an excellent understanding of what work the team has accomplished and what remains to be done. More importantly, team members are able to collaborate, make short-term commitments to each other and troubleshoot challenges as they arise rather than waiting for the weekly status meeting.
- Identify your bottlenecks and challenges, then brainstorm creative solutions
Rather than approaching your weekly status meeting as a roll call of accountability with an unpleasant aftertaste of lingering guilt, open by reviewing the challenges your team are facing and ask for support. Approach these challenges as a brainstorming exercise. Search for creative solutions together as a unified body to discover opportunities for working together or with partners in other departments. Instead of portraying any one person as solely accountable, underscore that every individual—including yourself—is an integral part of a team in which successes and failures are shared collaboratively.
- Start with positive potential
According to Willie Nelson, “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.” Applying this principle to meetings, start things off on an optimistic note by stating the best possible outcome for the meeting; doing so can inspire your team to adopt a positive attitude and foster a spirit of optimistic productivity. Every meeting should be goal-oriented, and as leader you have the power to establish the general direction up front by accentuating a positive, forward-thinking tone.
- Be prepared but stay flexible
Too often, hosts scramble to a meeting without taking time to organize their thoughts, only to face a team whose thoughts are equally scattered. To avoid such time-wasting, embarrassing situations, define your meeting goals in advance and create an agenda. Do your attendees the courtesy of distributing the agenda prior to the meeting to give them time to consider their feedback and to help the meeting stay on track and remain productive. However, to keep conversations fresh and open to the creative impulse, it’s equally important to remain flexible if topics stray. The caveat here is to not let sidebar discussions derail the meeting’s primary goals. As leader, it falls to you to identify and embrace any important secondary topics while squelching those that undermine productivity, such as office gossip or last weekend’s concert in the park.
Conducting a successful status meeting is an art form and a discipline. To elicit the best from your team and keep them inspired, you must be creative, stay focused and be able to determine what works and what doesn’t. Guidelines for conducting successful meanings are rife, but there’s no better teacher than experience. Know yourself, know your team, and take advantage of that dynamic as you apply the above tips and suggestions.
What techniques do you use to keep your meetings from becoming a snooze-fest?