Whether you work for a small, 3 person startup in your parent’s garage or a thousand person company, you will eventually find yourself in a position where you are responsible to lead a team meeting. Dependent upon your role, team meetings can focus on company strategy, addressing a potential issue, or brainstorming the next steps for a project.
Regardless of the subject of the meeting, having someone with the ability to effectively run the meeting is critical to the team’s success. It is estimated that individuals spend more than half of their day in meetings today so it is utterly important that the time is well spent and as productive as possible.
For the past 5 years, I have been running team meetings with up to 40 team members both in office and through the Internet with workers located around the globe. I have found that it is easy to call the team to attention and discuss a given topic, but it is much more difficult to organize and effectively run a value adding meeting because of the legwork required. In this post, I share the steps that I take to plan, prepare, and lead a team meeting.
Steps to Successfully Lead a Team Meeting
Step 1: Prepare the Agenda
The first step to leading an effective team meeting is preparing an agenda to guide the conversation. To create an effective agenda, you should be focused on the three most important aspects of the meeting.
Why are you having the meeting?
What are you attempting to accomplish in the meeting time?
Having a purpose for your team meeting will immediately set the tone for why the meeting is being called. Without a stated purpose, there is a good possibility that you reach the end of the meeting without accomplishing anything significant.
The Main Discussion or Activity
Once you have identified the purpose, it is time to map out exactly how you are going to address that purpose. This is the time in the meeting when you want to focus on engaging the team as much as possible. As the leader of the meeting, you probably already have a solution to most of the questions being posed, but you want to know if your team can arrive at a similar or better solution.
Incorporate debates on the solution
Sometimes it is hard to get the entire team to contribute. Introduce the topic and present two points of view. Ask the team which side they sway towards and why. This will split the team into two groups making them more comfortable speaking.
Split the group into smaller teams
If you ever have over 10 people in a meeting, it will be difficult to hear all of their voices. An effective way to avoid group think is to split the team up and assign them a quick thought and share exercise. When you come back into the full team, each group will share what their team discussed.
Plan to use a whiteboard
It is important to use visual strategies while running a meeting because of its ability to stimulate the mind. When you lead a team meeting, write or draw important concepts, facts, and details on the board to better keep your team engaged.
At the end of the meeting, it is important to close on a note related to the stated purpose so that the group feels like something was accomplished.
If you have achieved the purpose that you stated at the beginning of the meeting, recognize it. If there are certain action steps that need to be taken, assign them to team members by writing the task and their name on the board.
If you haven’t achieved your purpose yet, set up another time in the week to continue the conversation. Send the team off with a topic to think about so that you can have another strong discussion at the next meeting.
If you want to build moral and end on a positive note, you can utilize a power clap. It is very simple. Ask the team to start rubbing their hands together as if they are trying to start a fire. While they are doing this, share something that celebrates the meeting that you just had. Next, state…”on the count of 3, everyone clap”…”Ready, 1…2…3…CLAP” And that ends your meeting.
As the leader of the meeting, plan for 5 to 10 minutes after you finish to take feedback, answer questions, and assuage any complaints or concerns that the team has.
Step 2: Share the Agenda
Equally as important as creating the agenda is sharing the agenda at least 1 to 2 days prior to the meeting taking place.
Email an abridged version of the meeting agenda to the individuals involved in the meeting. Highlight the purpose of the meeting, when the meeting will take place, and leading questions that the participants should reflect on before the meeting. By giving the team time to digest the agenda, you are setting them up to contribute more and have greater focus.
Organize with a company calendar
Add the meeting to your company’s digital calendar and invite the people attending. Within the notes, paste the agenda from the email that you sent. I have used Google calendar and found great results because of its simplicity. By putting the meeting on your team’s calendar, you are preparing them to plan their day around the meeting. There is nothing worse than being abruptly interrupted for an “important meeting.” If it’s important, make sure that you let your team know ahead of time.
For yourself, review the agenda that you created and become familiar with the entire flow of the meeting. You’ll be leading so you want to be on top of it the entire time.
Step 3: Running the Meeting
On the day of the meeting, make a note to remind your team of when the meeting is so that they do not forget. When it is 10 minutes before start time, close what you are working on and begin to round up the troops. Starting the meeting on time is critical to effectively running the meeting on the day of. Once you have everyone in the room, it is time to begin.
Warm the team up with 5 minutes of small talk and conversation. These are simple questions to get everyone’s minds running. “What are you having for lunch today?” “What’s the plans for the weekend?” “How’s the day going so far?”
Express the purpose
Since you emailed out the agenda to your team, they should be familiar with the purpose of the meeting, but it is important to state it again. Write it on the board. This indicates that it’s time to get down to business.
Walk them through the plan
Launch into the bulk of the meeting by addressing how you are going to be achieving your purpose today. Explain the activity. Introduce the debate. Begin the conversation.
At this point, it is also important to manage your time. If you planned the meeting to be 1 hour and you are 15 minutes in, express that you have 30 minutes for the following part of the meeting. Ignoring time constraints in meetings can lead to wandering minds and ineffective discussions.
Facilitate the conversation
For a majority of the meeting, you should be leading, but not dominating the conversation. It is your job to guide the discussion in the right direction without overbearingly asserting your power as the leader of the meeting. When there are lulls in the conversation, ask a new question to get the team thinking again.
Step 4: Sending a Recap of the Meeting
Once the meeting has ended and everyone is back at their desks working diligently on their next task, it is important that you, as the leader, send out a short, descriptive email outlining what was accomplished in the meeting.
In this email, you can also explicitly assign tasks, schedule a follow-up meeting, and praise certain individuals for their contribution at the meeting. A nice word to those who went above and beyond to participate can go a long way with your team. Don’t forget that.
Practice Makes Perfect
Running an effective team meeting where you walk away with a true sense of accomplishment takes practice and can be frustrating at first. You will find that team members may not feel comfortable sharing, you chose a bad time in the day, or you aren’t as comfortable leading a conversation as you thought.
There are many variations to the strategy that I have proposed and I recommend that you test them to find which best suits your leadership style. As with all skills, you will only become great at designing and leading effective team meetings through practice, failure, and adjustments.
If you are interested in speaking with me about creating a meeting agenda for your company, please reach out to me at Connor@ConnorGillivan.com and I will gladly set up a time for us to chat.
If you have other strategies to lead a team meeting, please share them in the comments section so that other readers can continue to learn and grow.