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How To Make Your Team Meetings Sizzle

Photo by Martin Wilner on Unsplash

Have you ever held or survived a team meeting that should have been an email?  Were you or your company leadership trying to create a more productive environment?  Were you or your leadership trying to create a team atmosphere?  Maybe there was just a lack of knowledge on how to run an effective meeting or those conducting the meetings are confusing busy work with productivity.

“Meetings should be like salt – a spice sprinkled carefully to enhance a dish, not poured recklessly over every forkful.  Too much salt destroys a dish.  Too many meetings destroy morale and motivation.” – Jason Fried

Regardless of why your employees had to endure what might have been a complete waste of their time, there are ways to have an effective meeting that your employees will perceive to be of value.  Here’s a few ideas to help you, so your team never has to suffer again.

Human Nature

Human’s by nature are social creatures. We just like to be around each other.  Jim Rohn, motivational icon, theorizes that you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You’ve probably heard the old adage, “If you lay down with dogs, you wake up with fleas.”   Holds true don’t you think?

The more we see someone, the more we decide we like or dislike him or her. The person either becomes part of our “tribe” or is worked out over time. The more we like them, the more time we spend with them, the more we “think like them, or them like us.”

So, if the theory holds true in the workplace, there is a chance we can become extremely polarized as a company,  team, or individual, which diminishes our competitiveness.  Over time, the individuals on polarized teams may have such a strong desire for harmony or conformity to the group, that they may not feel comfortable discussing dissenting viewpoints, or worse yet, may never have them.  This polarization is referred to as Groupthink.

Groupthink, by nature, produces gridlock, degrades individual creativity and diminishes critical thinking.  It creates an environment where brainstorming activities are no longer beneficial and decision-making is rendered useless.

So, before you schedule your project or meeting, take a look at how diverse your team is and how open they are to expressing their opinions or viewpoints.  If you have flexibility on who participates on a specified project, do you have a mix of generations, people of various education levels, etc.?  If your team does not posses diversity, its imperative they understand the importance of brainstorming and how it impacts the outcome of the projects they participate in.

The Anatomy of An Effective Meeting

Brendon Burchard, the author of High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way, states

Oprah begins each meeting asking the following questions:

  1. What is our intention for this meeting?
  2. What’s important?
  3. What matters?

Sticking to this tried and true method has been instrumental in Oprah’s success.

Effective meetings have a clear purpose.  Before scheduling a meeting, have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and the results you want to come out of the meeting.  Once you are clear on the purpose of your meeting, make sure to share your vision with the participants before the event, this will set proper expectations.

Be selective, double check that you have invited the right participants to the meeting.  This means inviting those that will have the largest impact on making your vision become reality.  Meetings should always result in improved focus, collaboration and performance.

Without proper preparation, team meetings can become a dreadful chore, may be looked upon like an unwanted task, or a complete waste of time and energy.  Your participants minds will wander, focus will be lost and become no more than an unproductive “coffee and donuts” discussion.

Benefits of Team Meetings

Technology is an amazing thing, it can bring people together, it can reduce the ebbs and flow of information, it can change human behavior and it can literally save lives.  As amazing as technology is, it’s not nearly effective at driving relationships as a well-executed, diverse team meeting.

Team meetings are an essential part of business.  They allow leadership to convey direction, to set goals and to help employees understand how they help contribute to the overall vision of the company.  Some teams meet daily, some weekly, some monthly.  These meetings may vary based on needs of the business and the goals you are striving to accomplish.

Effective team meetings can be tricky to manage, company direction can change, employees may show up late, the team may lack diversity and alpha personalities may high-jack your meetings.  Even the strongest of leaders have this struggle.

While these meetings can be difficult to effectively manage, they provide a fantastic opportunity for employees to strengthen the bonds that, by our very nature as humans, we constantly crave. The relationships they develop during team meetings can have a positive effect on sales, on recruiting and on company revenue.

For a deeper understanding of effective meetings, we recommend incorporating the following four steps:

4 Steps to Executing a Successful Meeting

1-Integrate Awareness

Awareness is about being mindful.  Opening your mind to what’s occurring around you without taking things personal or being judgmental.  Understand that people come from all walks of life and could possibly be in various stages of development. Realize, no two people have the exact same perception about what’s happening in the business. Perception is based on individual experiences and no two individuals ever perceive the exact same experience in exactly the same way.  Generally, individual perception is the foundation of most arguments.

This means that your perspective may not be in line with those working for you.

So, before holding in your meeting, it’s imperative that you to do your homework so you understand their thought process.  Prepare for your meeting by developing and integrating an awareness strategy.

The ultimate goal is to become cognizant of the perceptions of those in your organization, to understand their thought processes and reasoning, to determine what they need to hear and to deliver the information in a way that will resonate.

We recommend developing real relationships with your employees.  Don’t be afraid to have real conversations, engaging with them on coffee breaks, over lunch, golf games or via phone calls making mental notes on information you’ve gleaned from your conversations.

Try becoming more observant, this will allow you to tap into the subconscious of your organization.  Pay attention to your employees’ behavior and their interactions with each other.  Understand that there may be issues occurring within the organization you are completely unaware of.

All in all, this will increase the chances of you having a more effective meeting.  Additionally, it will allow you to deliver your vision to employees in a manner they will be more willing to accept direction and listen, affording you the opportunity to “steer the ship” in the direction you wish it to flow.

2-Create an Environment of Trust

As a leader, it’s important to create an environment of trust where your employees feel free to express their ideas. There is immense value in hearing different perspectives in the presence of others! One idea very well may plant the seed that in turn sparks another, fantastic or even better idea. After all, ideas are dynamic, not static. This compounding effect can expedite processes, reduce expenses, and shorten time to market.

Getting team members to speak openly isn’t always as easy. People can be fearful of looking silly, uneducated, making someone angry, upstaging the boss or any other number of reasons.  So, if you don’t currently have an environment of trust, it may take time to get it established.

Start by setting expectations on how to communicate during team meetings. Let people know you want them to be open, share what they are thinking, that no idea is “silly” and that every idea helps plant the seed for the next idea which helps move the organization to next level.

Participation is key, I refer to this as “getting your jersey dirty.”  If the team understands the benefits of being open and participating in brainstorming activities, they will begin to create new and innovative ideas.  People buy into what they help create, therefore you increase the chances that the team will own both the failure and success of any idea they come to a consensus on.

As an added bonus, empowering people to be part of the creation process thru brainstorming activities has proven to improve the critical thinking skills of everyone involved. Empowering people gets an environment of trust established and before you know it, team members will be bouncing ideas off of each other in private settings.

3-Be Cognizant of Time

Look at just about any study out there about time wasters in business and you are bound to see unproductive meetings listed.  If I were to guess, you’ve probably held or have been to a few meetings that have seemly had no point, didn’t start on time, didn’t end of time or were hijacked by a team member. If meetings are kept brief, it is harder to wander off topic. Remember, everyone’s time is valuable.

Out of respect for everyone involved, team meetings should have a scheduled start and end time that is adhered to.  Scheduling start and end times allows employees to manage the business effectively and efficiently.  The meeting should start on time, regardless as to who is there.  If individuals are tardy and missed pertinent information, ask that they stay after the meeting to get covered on what they missed.

Do not re-cover the information while those that were on-time are present as you are wasting their time and they were respectful enough to be on time.  After all, why would anyone be on time to the next meeting if you are just going to repeat it for those who were late to this one?

Having to stay after the meeting to gain pertinent information will create pressure on those that are late.  It will make even a bigger impact on those that are repetitively late as they are no longer on a level production playing field with those that are on time.  This encourages them to put pressure on themselves to get things done, as they are now time inhibited.

Pressure isn’t necessarily a negative.  To quote Alex Barrios, founder of Nu Image, “Pressure makes two things, dust or diamonds.”  So, don’t be afraid to apply pressure when necessary.

It’s also important to assure that everyone invited to the meeting actually needs to be there.  It’s not uncommon to have individuals on a meeting invite as a matter of courtesy.  Don’t waste their time or yours, remove them.

Lastly, ask yourself if the meeting is necessary, if it’s not necessary or a valuable use of time, cancel it.

4-Use the Power of Restraint

If your anything like me, you wait with anticipation to find out what going to happen from week to week on your favorite  television programs.

Entertainment companies have been making a living for years using what we refer to as “the power of restraint” and the almighty “Cliff Hanger”, with their viewers.  They successfully leave their audiences wanting more.

While it can be really exciting to have a group of engaged employees sitting in front of you, giving too much information can overload your employees and diminish their meeting experience.  Effective leaders leave employees wanting more, they leave them curious. They use the power of restraint.

If you aren’t leaving your employees wanting more, there are a few steps you can take.

First, analyze the length of your team meetings, shortening the meeting time may be all you need to do.  We’ve found more success when we have cut meetings from one hour to half an hour.

Second, don’t share everything you know in one sitting.  Break up information you plan to share strategically.  For example, you could cover critical information today and the fun inquisitive questions everyone had during your next meeting.  You could cover one small chapter of a book to end your meeting today with a tidbit of information on what you will be covering in the next meeting.  There are endless ways to do this.


Use your awareness of the team psyche, creative ideas and your environment of trust, to identify team meeting subjects, develop your workforce and to give true value to the meetings your workforce attends.

Be efficient and respectful of everyone’s time including your own.  ALWAYS leave them wanting more and everyone wins….

With that being said, we will be posting another article next week on an issue everyone in business can use a great deal of help on.

Until then….


If you like this article, check out our article on managing your top performers here


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