10 tips on how to not hate team meetings - Part 1
Everyone hates meetings, right? They are the necessary evils we have to endure in order to get to the real work of investing in children and young people.
If you think that way, I can’t blame you. We have all sat through meetings that seem rudderless, straying from tangent to tangent with no apparent through-line according to the latest carriage on the next persons thought train.
We have all had to endure those meetings that seemed to go nowhere and produce nothing. We’ve all sat with eyes glazed over as the chair of the meeting droned on and on about who knows what. We were at best bored and at worst down-right angry at having our precious time wasted in another fruitless meeting when we’ve got more than enough to be getting on with thank you very much!
But does it really have to be this way? Is it possible that meetings could be life-giving instead of life-sapping? Could they become something we look forward to instead of something to dread? Surely they can…
Have you experienced it? The joy of a team on the same page, equally passionate about the mission God has entrusted you with, pursuing God’s will together? The moment in the meeting when that lightbulb goes on; that realisation hits; that fresh revelation comes? It’s glorious!
I really believe there is something unique about the way God speaks to a team that he doesn’t with individuals, for surely God made us in order to journey together in community?
That’s why I believe that, when they’re done right, meetings don’t have to be something we endure, but something we enjoy! So over the next two articles, we’ll be unpacking my top ten tips for chairing meetings that matter…
1. PREPARE ADEQUATELY
You can tell within two minutes whether the chair of a meeting has thought ahead to the purpose of the meeting, or if they just showed up because it was in the diary. So before you lead your next meeting to ensure you have internally answered this question: If we only made one clear decision in this meeting, what would it be?
Clarity around this question gives you focus going in the meeting, thus enabling you to prioritise the most important issues and discuss them when everyone is fresh and alert! Also ensure that you circulate your agenda to everyone in the team before arriving at the meeting, which gives them time to do some preparation and pre-thinking. The result of this is that your team won’t have to process at the moment, which leads to clearer thoughts, more articulate discussions and far less rambling in your meetings!
2. LAND IN ACTION OR ALIGNMENT
Don’t move on from your discussion until you have landed in a decisive action or more clearly aligned thinking. This more than anything else will get rid of those meetings that were utterly pointless because nothing actually changed as a result.
So make sure you always know who is doing what by when before you move on in the meeting. At the end of each agenda item reflect on the decisions made to be sure that everyone in the room has heard and internalised the same thing.
3. EVERYONE TAKE NOTE OF THEIR OWN ACTIONS
Hopefully, you’ll have someone in the room taking minutes. This is good and important, but has a downside: people rely on the minutes to record their responsibilities. The problem with this is, let’s face it, people don’t read minutes! So at the start of the meeting ask everyone in the room to take note of their own action points, then before closing the meeting go round the room and ask everyone to share from their record what they have agreed to do.
4. BAN PHONES!
This may sound radical, but I’ve banned phones in my meetings. I do allow exceptions if people are expecting a very important call from home, but ask that they communicate this to the whole team at the start of the meeting. Why do I do this? Because no matter how accomplished a multi-tasker you are, if you’re looking at your phone when someone else is speaking it communicates to them that you are not particularly interested in what they have to say. Whether you are interested or not or not is irrelevant.
Whether you can look at your phone and be attentive at the same time or not is irrelevant. It’s about what it communicates to the others in the room. The best meetings happen when everyone is fully attentive and engaged, so ensure everyone switches off so they can be switched on!
5. KEEP TO TIME
People are busy, they probably have another appointment scheduled for directly after your meeting - so honour their time by finishing on time even if you haven’t finished your agenda. If you keep running over people will start resenting coming to your meetings, and that’s not a good place to start!
Equally, start on time, even if you’re still waiting for people to arrive. When you wait for everyone to show up before starting the meeting it communicates to them that it’s OK to be late, and so that behaviour is easily repeated. Whereas no one likes to walk into a meeting that’s already started. It’s embarrassing and thus they are less likely to be late again next time!
That should get you started for your meetings this month. In the next issue, we’ll explore five more tips for leading meetings that matter…
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