There is a cruel irony to recurring meetings: they are often simultaneously the vehicle by which the next great idea is born, as well as the productivity black hole where work goes to take a siesta. Finding the balance of enriched discussion and lack of wasted time is difficult, but there are three easy steps managers and team leads need to always keep in mind:
Be Adaptable And Full Of Substance
Developing a process for meetings isn’t about a rigid adherence to a philosophy you read somewhere from a Productivity Expert peddling his or her latest book. It’s about understanding the needs of your team, and inviting them into the conversation of how best to address them. And sometimes that means being willing to change.
For example, sometimes it’s not the frequency of the meetings, but rather, the nature of the meetings themselves. Don’t waste time rattling off your “To Do” items from a checklist. Provide a centralized space where team members can share lists of what they’re working on outside of meetings, and other team members can reference those lists when they need to.
Save face to face (or screen to screen) meeting time for higher level discussion around strategy and collaboration. If meetings are always substantive, it will never feel like you’re having too many.
Follow, Don’t Lead
Prior to every meeting, ask team members to put down a talking point they wish to discuss. That way whoever is leading the meeting has a dynamic agenda informed completely by the team. Making a Trello list with cards for each item is a good way to set this up.
During the meeting, go through each card, then archive as you move on to the next point. Drag cards up and down the list to reorder them. This is an effective strategy that lacks rigidity but still provides structure to meetings.
If meetings are always substantive, it will never feel like you’re having too many.
The process of asking people to create their own agendas gives the meeting an agile flow, as opposed to a top down lecture. Meetings should be about collaboration and discussion. Encouraging members of the team to create talking points makes them an active participant in the agenda, not a passive attendee. In short, they are acting as a team.
Make regular goals depending on what timeframe makes sense for your team, whether it's monthly, quarterly, or otherwise. Prior to the meeting to discuss the roadmap, each team member should make their own checklist titled “[PERSON’S NAME]’s [TIMEFRAME] Goals.” These checklists can easily be referenced throughout, and as tasks are accomplished, check them off.
At the end of the allotted time, instead of reiterating what everyone can obviously see has been checked off and accomplished, you can now spend more time discussing what you learned, where you need to improve, and plan ahead for what’s next. This method helps managers keep their team accountable without needing to micromanage each task.
In the new workplace with less hierarchy and structure, optimizing meetings can turn them from an annoyance into something in which the whole team looks forward to participating. Making sure everyone is involved, speaks their mind, and having some semblance of structure will ensure you’re gaining time instead of wasting it doing the same old.