Team Meetings

Team MeetingsMeetings are the usual setting for the exchange of information among team members. Meetings can be an effective way to share information, identify problems and formulate plans of action. The three meeting time frames that must be controlled are before, during and after the meeting.

Before the Meeting
Lack of planning is the single biggest reason why meetings fail. During the planning stage a leader can begin to control the environment in which the communication process will take place. Many teams reserve time at the end of each meeting to plan for the next. Planning includes determining the purpose of the meeting, who will take which role, time and location and notifying all members so they know your expectations.

Setting the Purpose of the Meeting
To define what the meeting is all about, consider the outcome you hope to achieve. Some examples would include, policy changes, new sales and service strategy, customer problem or to solicit new ideas. Most team meetings have multiple purposes such as sub-team updates, organizational changes or plans received from upper management. Clarify the purpose and write it down to solidify it to help the team concentrate on what needs to get done. Often, simply clarifying the goal is a worthwhile exercise. Depending on the team’s purpose, it may be possible to achieve the same exchange of information through memos or emails.

Team Meeting Roles
Every team meeting will proceed more smoothly if the team defines the roles of facilitator, note taker, observer and participant. The most effective teams rotate the roles among team members, giving every member a chance to learn and grow in their meeting skills. Role rotation also increases individual involvement in team maintenance by fostering commitment to specific responsibilities benefitting the team.

Facilitator – The facilitator is responsible for compiling the agenda based on the meeting’s purpose and required topics. Every team member must get a copy of the agenda. The facilitator ensures that team norms are observed, keeps the meeting flowing and enforces time limits. At the beginning of the meeting, ask for changes, deletions, and additions and once the agenda is set, follow it. Take on the toughest issues first while interest and energy is highest. Attach and adhere to time restrictions as well as asking every participant to contribute. Watch out for hidden agendas and personal issues and keep team members on track. Use the most effective board or flip chart that is available to you to record issues and positions.

Near the end of the meeting, take stock of what you’ve accomplished, what remains and move the team toward a decision about a new course of action: Get a clear-cut statement of what each team member expects to happen as a result of the meeting, whether that means completing some unfinished business or moving ahead on new projects. Ask the note-taker to write it down and end the meeting on time.

Note Taker – The note taker summarizes the team’s activities, compiles the minutes of the meeting, and distributes them to the team. The minutes should include: attendance; summaries of the team’s discussion about agenda items; decisions reached and actions taken; exhibits introduced by members; action items remaining; assignments of future responsibilities; and plans for future meetings.

Observer – The observer has a delicate role to observe and report impartially on the team members’ management of the process. That report includes their adherence to norms; their use of effective communication techniques; their focus on task issues; and their ability to progress toward achieving their goals. Before the close of the meeting, the observer gives feedback to the team members to help them improve their use of meetings as a forum. Observations about start on time and sticking to the agenda are helpful to the team.

During the Meeting
You must consider how to make the communication process productive through the entire meeting in every role. The participant’s role is usually taken for granted and is often assumed to be a passive role. You have been asked to participate because you can add value and the outcome of the meeting will affect you directly. Your comments and ideas can help the team achieve its meeting goal.

Review the agenda in advance; know where you fit into the scheme of things, how the issues affect the quality of your performance, and how your performance affects the quality of the outcome. Evaluate each new idea in the light of achieving the team’s goals. When you speak, stick to the subject but don’t be afraid to politely challenge cherished opinions or positions. If you avoid speaking up, you may be dissatisfied with the outcome of the meeting and grousing after the fact will not be effective. Raise your issues at the meeting, not after adjournment.

After the Meeting
During the meeting, everyone was “fired up and ready to go.” However, the daily pressures of any job can overwhelm the best of team intentions. Follow through on the plan agreed on by all the team members and that begins for every team member when the meeting ends. The note taker has to prepare a summary of the meeting and distribute it to all the members. It can be as formal or as informal as necessary as long as it reflects what actually happened. It should summarize main points of discussion and identify proponents and opponents. Make sure it includes a statement of what the team agreed to do next. Distribute them to team members as soon as possible. Every team needs to make its meetings productive.

Effective communication is the foundation of an effective team. Training and trust flow from effective communication.

Related Articles:   The Smartest Teams … 3 Traits  and   In Meetings … Behave Yourself!

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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