Given a choice, many employees would elect to avoid the typical office meeting whether it is virtual or conducted in person. While these meeting-averse employees appear to listen as colleagues and bosses seek solutions to unresolved company challenges, visions of piles of incomplete paperwork dance in their heads. This does not mean that company issues are unimportant to them. Rather, it could suggest the need for a team meeting makeover that holds their interest and increases participation.
As someone who is responsible for planning office meetings, you should occasionally conduct a thorough examination of your meeting style and methods. How would you rate the current structure of your team meetings? More importantly, what rating would employees give the meetings? Would everyone agree that their time is spent in a productive and informative environment? Is there positive information exchange or a constant communication battle? In terms of interaction and actual productivity, does the meeting lose its edge by taking on the feel of a social gathering?
Positive ratings from team members typically require structuring meetings that encourage group participation. Besides the obvious pointers of starting on time and being prepared, here are some other things you can do to involve everyone.
Limit Frequency of Meetings
Choose to have fewer – but better – meetings and avoid participation burnout. Bringing the team together several times a week is often considered a time waster, especially when no new ground is covered from one meeting to the next. Some issues can be addressed through email, a quick phone call or brief, one-on-one conversations.
Stay Focused on Meeting Purpose
Limiting the frequency of meetings can help you maintain focus on the purpose. Never schedule a meeting simply because it is what teams do. Remember: You want to keep the team collectively engaged in the project. Have a clear focus that is of interest to every team member.
The quickest way to disengage the team is to allow a meeting to be perceived as nonproductive. Further, the impact could extend beyond the meeting into everyday work habits. Lacking focus in the meeting is interpreted as a waste of time. The last thing you want is to have a negative impact on team dynamics. If so, you are back to the drawing board of building a cohesive, confident team.
Give Team Members a Responsible Role
You may find that giving team members a responsible part in the meeting presentation increases participation. Understanding that they have a stake in how well – or poorly – the meeting is conducted reinforces that every team member has a vested interest in the work.
Additionally, this helps encourage productive interaction among team members. Even the employees who tend to participate less will begin to make contributions. The goal is to encourage great discussions that lead to the results needed for success.
Value Team Members’ Input
Keep an open mind during the meetings, especially if you ask for group participation. Let team members know that their opinions and advice will be evaluated even if senior management chooses not to use the suggestions. By doing this, you let team members know that their input is valued. Everyone understands that not all suggestions are possible; fewer will understand displaying a lack of respect for their input.
Be courteous and never let a team member leave feeling bad about a comment. Participation comes easily and willingly when team members know they can openly share their opinions and advice.
Assign Action Items and Encourage Follow-through
Assign action items that come from team meeting discussions immediately. Select the individual, communicate the priority level and give them a due date for completion. Summarize outcomes in a quick email that includes assignments and timelines soon after the meeting. A written confirmation of the meeting discussion reinforces the need for engagement. Those who were assigned tasks will need to report on their progress during the next scheduled meeting.
Ask for Feedback
There is room for improvement in all team meetings, so never be afraid to ask for feedback. Check with members on a quarterly basis – or more often if necessary on the status of meetings. There are several ways that you can get feedback.
One option is to send an email that includes a simple evaluation form. Another way is to speak informally with the team after the next meeting. You could also solicit feedback by having an open discussion as a team about better ways to conduct meetings.
Poorly conducted meetings will never produce desired results. The project will suffer and members will quickly lose interest in the team. Eventually, they may also lose interest in their work. Make a concerted effort to plan effective meetings that lead to productive outcomes. Keep team members interested and not only will you increase their participation, but you will also get more done.
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