“All my team meetings are crap”

She is so disappointed. Although there is a common vision and the team members like each other, another team meeting went down the line without people contributing or a fruitful discussion. Stress is high these days and time is precious. It makes it even worse that the time of the team meeting doesn’t seem to be used well. She sighs. What is going wrong?

I am asking, whether I might share my perspective. She nodds.

“Do you remember coming on very last minute into the meeting?” – yes, she admits. There are always many topics and she always runs into the meeting in the last moment or sometimes late. Although everyone can totally understand the pressure and time constraints, as a leader, you always model a certain behaviour. You coming in on last second every time, will show your people that they can come late or just rush into the room. This will always kill the first minutes of a meeting because everyone still needs time to settle in and to focus. How about starting the meeting 5min later on purpose and instead of running in late, using the 5 minutes to breathe, think and recall the most important points!?

“Might it be true that you don’t have an agenda for that meeting? It seemed to me, you were jumping through the topics.” – yes, she nodds. There isn’t even time to prepare for the meeting. Therefore she only adresses topcis that are on her mind. In consequence, her team could not contribute adequately as they didn’t know what was part of the meeting. She never thought of having a standard agenda as this felt too stiff. Although there is a risk of running into a certain boredom by following the same agenda, the benefits are much higher. A standard agenda frees up the mind to focus on the content. It let’s everyone know what to expect from the meeting and where to contribute. It needs to be high level so that it is flexible for all topics of the team. For example, here is a standard agenda for a team meeting based on a timeline:

  1. Team checkin: how is everyone?
  2. Last week: anything to highlight? what do we need to know?
  3. This week: hot topics, important meetings, deadlines
  4. Upcoming in the future: stuff we need to get ready for
  5. Anything else?

An agenda could also walk through topics or teams/departments if it is a meeting of team-heads who need to align.

“Do you like the meeting?”, I am asking as a last question. She isn’t sure. She realizes that this meeting is essential for the team as it is the core meeting of the week and it is the backbone for the alignment of all departments. If this meeting goes well, the whole week will run smoother. “You need to make this meeting a priority. Whatever you model, your team will do.” We chat a bit on how this could look like.

A few months later we are talking again. She smiles brightly! “Our meeting is awesome! I take 10 minutes before the meeting to prepare. And when I am coming in, we are on time and know what to align on! Everyone contributes and we are getting the results we need!”

But she also admits that it was hard to realize that many parameters of what made the meeting ‘crap’ where influenced by her own behavior.

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