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Lead effective team meetings

Let’s imagine how an effective team meeting will look like.

Imagine that you are sitting in a meeting. The meeting time is being used efficiently, the tone of the conversation is positive, and thoughtful ideas are being clearly presented and openly shared.

Disagreement and conflict are being handled productively, and participants are keeping their focus on common goals.

What’s going on?

The person in charge knows how to lead an effective meeting.

It is important to use your meeting time effectively and to get the maximum benefit from the time you spend.

Sometimes managers who are otherwise effective struggle when trying to manage the personalities and interplay of ideas in a meeting.

This article outlines the steps involved in leading an effective team meeting.

Begin the meeting

Your first few remarks set the stage for the session that follows.

While you may feel it’s unnecessary to repeat the information on the agenda, your ability to orient the group and energize them will pay off in their increased focus and the energy they devote to accomplishing meeting objectives.

Let’s see an example of how an effective team meeting should start:

“As most of you probably have heard already, this week our firm won the advertising contract with Kooler Kola. They want a short and sharp campaign of concurrent print, radio, and Web ads, so it will be a challenging project and one of the biggest we’ve handled to date

I want to emphasize to all of you how important it is that we design a successful messaging strategy. This group is going to be the lead team managing this.

Our cohesiveness as a group and our ability to communicate successfully with the Kooler Kola marketing department and provide them with exceptional service are essential to the success of this project.

I have no doubt we can put together a terrific campaign. I can’t emphasize enough that a lot a business rides on this project.

If we boost their sales and brand recognition, they will continue to use our firm, and contracts from other manufacturers will follow.

The start date for the ad campaign is three months away; we have a lot to do and a finite time to do it”

Provide a context for discussion

Background information gives everyone the same view of the subject or problem being discussed. It can prevent misconceptions and clarifies the key elements of the topic.

In many instances, providing a context also means acknowledging how the group, or specific group members, can contribute to the discussion and ultimately to the success of the meeting.

Manage team discussions

How much you talk will depend on the nature of the meeting.

If the purpose of the meeting is to disseminate and clarify information, and you are the most knowledgeable person, chances are you will have a lot to say.

In other cases, such as when complicated problems need to be resolved, your focus should turn to members of the group and their thoughts on the issue.

While it may be tempting in some instances to express your personal opinion on various agenda items, as chair of the meeting you cannot serve both as a facilitator and as an advocate for a particular position.

Your advocacy role is likely to prevent you from maintaining the objectivity required to fairly conduct the session.

If you believe that your personal views must be heard, it may be appropriate for you to assign a temporary chair for that particular discussion so that you can act as an independent voice on the issue

Facilitate team members participation

Participation can be encouraged through brainstorming, or simply by asking members to take turns sharing their views.

Asking each member to make a brief statement can be useful because it starts everyone off on equal ground and encourages individuals to continue to participate.

Pay special attention to nonverbal behaviors that might indicate disagreement, confusion, or frustration.

Addressing these responses in a non-threatening manner is essential to keeping everyone a contributing member.

Let’s see an example of how to encourage team members to participate during the meetings:

“So far we have heard from some of us about how we might best manage this account, but we haven’t yet heard from everyone.

Let’s just go around the table and each of you quickly share what you think about this project, and how it will affect you.

Paul, you look like you have some particular concerns, so let’s start with you”

Keep the discussion on track

To ensure that you end the meeting on time, you must keep the discussion on track.

Often, the problem is too much rather than not enough participation.

When members begin to get carried away, it is your job to keep them on task.

An example:

“What we need to do is find a way to organize so that when we win big accounts like this we can handle it with current staffing levels, assuming we have advance notice.

Paul, you might be able to get some help from Jesica’s team to finish off some of the ads you’ve been working on so you can focus on this account”

Strategies for keeping discussions on track include:

  1. Remind participants of the time while acknowledging the contributions being made. Cutting someone off abruptly not only can be disruptive but also can create hard feelings that are difficult to reverse.

2.Tactfully interject a summary of what has been accomplished or determined to that point, and then outline the next steps.

3. Ask the team member to clarify how the idea on the table relates to the topic of discussion for example:

“You may be correct in thinking that our servers’ uniforms are outdated, but I’m not sure that issue is related to efficiency in the kitchen.”

4. Suggest dealing with the topic at a later time.

To ensure that this approach is recognized as sincere, make the arrangement as concrete as possible by saying something like,

“That software program sounds like it has potential. Let’s put it on the agenda for our technology committee to discuss at its next meeting.”

“This has been a good discussion and we have a good idea of what needs to be done. Let me just take a few minutes to summarize”

Closing the meeting

It is important to end the meeting on time; continue it only if all members agree to stay and finish an urgent item of business.

If the group lacks the necessary information to continue its discussion, do not hesitate to close the meeting in advance of the scheduled end time.

Members will appreciate your recognition of their valuable time.

In such cases, make sure to identify a specific plan for gathering the necessary information so that the next meeting can be productive

Ending a meeting is a formal process with several well-defined steps.

1.Signal to the group that time is up.

2.Briefly summarize the topics covered and any decisions that have been made or areas of agreement that have been reached.

3.Acknowledge any special member contributions.

4.Schedule the next meeting while everyone is present.

Meeting follow up

The agenda for the next meeting is based on the outcomes of the one that has just ended.

If you’ve assigned specific tasks to members, you need to follow up to make sure they understand their assignments and finish them before the next meeting.

In addition, it is good practice to explore the consequences of any decisions that have been made in previous meetings.

If new policies have been adopted, make sure they are followed.

If new practices have been implemented as a result of proposals adopted at the meeting, ask those involved how these changes are working.

As you will soon discover, much of your work takes place after the meeting is over.

Hope you enjoyed the article and that this will help you lead an effective team meeting shortly. You can also read my other 2 articles related to meetings: “Preparing an effective meeting in 6 essential steps” and “How to prepare an effective business meeting”