The Three Stages of a Team Meeting

The Three Stages of a Team Meeting

Meetings start with the best of intentions.  We may prepare team meetings with the belief that the combined ideas of many is better than the thoughts of one.  And yet, these sorts of meetings often lose direction and turn into a briefing session directed by the leader. The list of reasons may be long, but it often involves a lack of understanding of what is required of a leader when facilitating a team meeting.  As a facilitator, the leader has to get the team members actively engaged in the process of discovery rather than being passive recipients of information. Not every team meeting is a facilitated session, but when facilitation is required, it helps to approach the session in stages – the beginning, the middle and the end.  Each stage has components which are important, and will challenge you in different ways.  By planning each stage separately, you increase the chances that your meeting will be organised, effective and in control.   The Beginning A strong beginning helps to set the tone for a successful meeting. Your team should be guided throughout the process and have a clear understanding of the what, why, how and outcome of the agenda items.  When beginning the meeting, it helps to follow three steps: First, start with a welcoming statement.  This doesn’t need to be a long drawn-out oration of the day’s events.  However, clarity, conciseness, and confidence, are critical. You will need to establish your command immediately. This establishes your right to control proceedings and positions you as credible leader. Second, move to a meeting set-up in which you give the team...
Making a Good Impression

Making a Good Impression

When delivering an important message, a leader can follow a simple checklist for creating the right impression with the audience. Once the basic content and structure of the message is decided, shifting focus toward creating the right impression is a big part of ensuring that the message is well received and leads to prompt action. The following are three elements that you can add to your own checklist: channel, tone and observable behaviours. 1. Choose the right channel Leaders have an understandable tendency to use email to communicate some of their most important messages. The reasons are obvious – instant circulation, immediate impact and consistency across recipients. But that may not be enough when you have to communicate something really significant. Before you deliver a crucial message to your team, ask yourself whether the idea is to inform, engage or persuade. Which method is the audience likely to prefer? Email and other electronic tools make it faster to share information (inform). However, if you need to impress your team as a leader, it is best to communicate in person and follow up, if necessary, with something in writing (engage / persuade). In a large organisation, where face-to-face meeting with every employee is not possible, you could consider a webcast as an option. They are easy to arrange, cost-effective and more personal than email messages. 2. Choose the right tone To strike the right tone when communicating, every leader has to walk a fine line. At one end of the spectrum, you risk sounding too “macro”, falsely optimistic or too assertive. At the other, you can come across as obsessed...
Structuring the Meeting

Structuring the Meeting

All of us have attended team meetings that turn out to be a waste of time and money. This happens even when considerable effort has been made to organise things and fix an agenda. The goals may be lofty – redefining human resources policies, brainstorming about a marketing plan or reviewing budgets and forecasts – and getting people together may seem the best way forward. However, many business meetings are unable to achieve any results and even end up creating more problems than they solve. A lot of this has to do with how the meeting is structured and managed. When planning, it’s important to go beyond agenda setting, and depending on the circumstances, the process can take anything from a few minutes to a few months. Here are 9 recognised steps for making meetings more effective:   9 Key Steps Audience analysis – understand who will be present and who is critical to the meeting’s success. Set an objective – be sure about the desired outcome. Research – understand the issues to be discussed, decided, solved and acted upon. Create a structure – establish the agenda and the order of tackling issues in the time available. Get attention – start the meeting by focusing attention and explaining the relevance of the meeting. Follow guidelines – conduct and control the meeting so as to keep things on track. Summarise and confirm – make sure everyone understands the outcome and what they are supposed to deliver. Document and distribute results – ensure other interested parties know about the key decisions. Review the process – after the meeting, ask yourself what...

Make Your Message Compelling

As a leader, you are responsible for giving a clear direction to your team, department or company. One of the key skills for a leader is to align people and get them working towards common goals. This is done by combining two essential facets of leadership: communicating a clear and compelling message about corporate goals and exemplifying the company’s values in one’s own words and deeds. The best leaders realise that this helps them inspire and energise employees to achieve a higher level of performance. It also makes it easier to implement change and increase the overall competitiveness of an organisation. Delivering the Message Too often, leaders assume that calling for a meeting and making a statement is all that is needed to get the message across. They forget good employees are paid to think, and are not inclined to follow instructions blindly. Do not fall into the trap of expecting subordinates to respond as robots. Make sure your comments are compelling – on both a rational and emotional level. Talk about results and benefits. Be specific at all times because employees rarely pay attention to generalities. Also, if you think the audience might overlook certain crucial points, highlight the relevance of such points. That is a part of your job. Even a leader should be prepared to substantiate an argument. Seniority does not automatically allow you to speak with unquestioned authority, so you need relevant facts and figures to prove any point. You can also use stories, case studies, visual aids or anecdotal evidence. Since people tend to be sceptical, especially when faced with impending change, there is...

Give Your Message Context

Have you ever left a meeting where you discussed a new strategy or restructuring issue and thought, “That was nice, but where do I fit in?” It happens often and demonstrates why a leader’s communication can miss its mark. The problem is that the communicator is focusing on what management wants and not on what the audience needs. If individuals do not have their questions answered, they have little reason to take goal-oriented action. As a leader, the first thing you should do is create a context for your message. Start by giving people a reason to listen and make sure they identify with it. Everyone should understand why it is important for them and what they will get out of it. Once you have engaged their personal interest, move on to the intellectual reason or business rationale for what you have to say. Many leaders make the mistake of starting with the rationale, launching into details about market changes and the need to increase revenue. This will not win over an audience. Next go on to the “how” part, detailing the process and action points that the team must now implement. Finally, cover the expected outcome, showing what the future holds and how the team assesses its rate of progress. By focusing on the “why”, “what”, “how”, and the “outcome”, and by explaining their relevance, you will establish a personal connection with the audience. Any talk at the water cooler or in the lift will be about what you said rather than about what you did not...

Handling Group Dynamics

“Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything” JK Gailbraith Economist Meetings can be notorious time wasters. This doesn’t mean that the team is incompetent or that the topics are unimportant. What it sometimes comes down to is the group dynamic. Even the most effective meeting organisers may be so focused on the technical aspects of the agenda that they forget to prepare to handle the group dynamic. Here are a few tips and reminders to help set the right tone and manage the discussion. The Opening Question Consider changing the way you start a meeting with your team. Instead of going straight to the first item on the agenda – which is usually an update or the minutes of the previous meeting – kick off with something that surprises people, yet gets things moving in the right direction. Make a conscious effort to set the tone, examine the key purpose and stimulate creativity. Present your opening question in a way that encourages discussion, requires people to think a bit and expect answers. Of course, consider the context of the meeting but you might ask something like “How can we increase sales by 10 percent in the next three months without increasing costs?” Multiple Points of View Meetings are not just a forum to share information or give individuals a platform to express their views. They should be used to prompt clearer or broader thinking and enhance problem solving. During a meeting, try to get the participants to comment and build on what others have to say. Draw everyone into the discussion by asking whether they have...