3. Ensure Meetings are Regular, Scheduled & Attended
The third component of meetings that matter is to make sure there’s a strong structure.
How often should you have meetings? That’s up to you and your team to discuss and decide. Don’t just pick weekly or monthly because that’s what you’ve always done, consider what sort of scheduling makes the most sense.
And you may need different time frames for different types of meetings. For example you may have a meeting every three weeks to look at your goals, and another one once every six months to talk about your overarching strategy.
Next you need to schedule those meetings. If you don’t schedule them, they’re not gonna happen! Make sure that you’ve got them on everyone’s calendar.
This may sound obvious, but I often see managers set up meetings with their team and then move them repeatedly. It happens with both team meetings, and one-on-one meetings. They are moved, cancelled or postponed. The message that sends to the team members is: this meeting is not important. I’ve got other things I need to do that are more important than meeting with you.
One trick to avoiding long meetings is to send around pre-reading, and ensure that everyone commits to reading it before the meeting as part of your discussion around scheduling. It is very frustrating to send around pre-reading that no one actually reads. You have to spend the first 20 minutes of the meeting going back over the pre-reading.
4. Provide Psychological Safety
In a meeting, you want to have a space where everybody feels that they can contribute. The idea is to create ‘psychological safety’, a term coined by Amy Edmondson.
What is Psychological Safety?
People in environments that feel psychologically safe feel safe to say no, to disagree, and to put forward ideas without being embarrassed or punished.
Perhaps you’ve been in a meeting where the most dominant person in the meeting, like the owner of the business or the leader of that team, says something that you don’t agree with. There aren’t many people who feel comfortable to speak up and offer a countering point of view.
But in a meeting with a sense of psychological safety, people feel that they can speak up and disagree in a respectful way, without being embarrassed or punished. Psychological safety has been credited, across multiple studies, as the most important aspect in creating high-performing teams.
If you’re interested to find out more about psychological safety, there are lots of great resources on the Re:work website.
Assessments can be great tools for building safe spaces. Examples include:
- Whole brain thinking For thinking preferences
- DISC For behaviour
- Myers-Briggs For personality.
These tools are inexpensive, and provide a common language for a team to understand how each member thinks. I’ve done whole brain thinking assessments for many many years and I’ve found that certain jobs lead to certain preferences. For example, an accounting team usually has a lot of people who prefer left-mode thinking – they like facts, process, policies. Meanwhile a marketing team is often much more right-mode of thinking – preferring creativity, conceptualising and interpersonal skills. These tools can help you recognise gaps, strengths and weaknesses in your team’s approach.
5. Create a Framework
Having a framework for your meeting is a little bit different to having an agenda. This is really about resisting the temptation to talk about your week, or your month.
I have found that even when teams have agendas and a purpose, they will still default to looking at what they’ve been doing, rather than looking at goals, KPIs, metrics and dashboards. Why? Because sometimes those conversations are difficult.
Perhaps the profit isn’t where we thought it was, we’re not getting as many leads as we wanted, our sales are down, we’ve lost a big client, or our staff turnover’s gone up. But we must have these conversations because if we’re not discussing them as a team we are missing emerging issues and opportunities. Safe spaces are critical in discussing difficult issues.
How do we do this?
- Bring a Question – encourage everyone to bring a question to every meeting, for example about how something’s working in the business or what’s happening in the external market.
- Who do you recognise? ask everyone to recognise someone who they noticed has done good work since the last meeting.