February 3, 2019
Attacking a team member vs a problem will build walls and when walls go up, the comfortability and desire to communicate will suffer.
We've all been there: We walk into a meeting, there's no agenda on the table, someone starts talking about the topic they want to talk through, and before you know an hour a half sails by and you walk out feeling like nothing has been accomplished. Here are three tips that will help lead you toward more productive meetings.
Tip One: Make an Agenda and Stick to It
Time is the one thing that we can never reproduce. You don't get to store it up and use it later. You can't slow it down. You can't get back lost or mismanaged time either. A meeting agenda (and sticking to it) creates an effective conversation because it focuses the conversation and guards against rabbit holes. It's a plan of attack that allows you to ask questions and then make appropriate decisions on how to move a project forward.
Utilizing an agenda will also improve how the team members in the meeting process appropriately. When our eyes can read an outlined agenda and our ears hear the same thing, our brain organizes itself appropriately to better stay on task. (I don't have scientific evidence of my previous sentence but I have seen a big uptick in my teams meeting conversation and productivity because of it.) When I've been in a meeting that operated via an agenda and every person walks out with their marching orders you can't help but feel productive. Goals are set and you understand how to track them. Which leads me to my next tip.
Tip Two: Set Goals AND Reach Them
You can't measure success unless there is something to measure it by. Goals do just that. When I look back on the most healthy productive places I've worked over the years, each possessed an atmosphere of goal setting. Goals create vision at the start and a value of accomplishment upon completion. Goals are a natural stimulant of effort for people because it creates a unifying team oriented mission. Every person must play their part and when they do what was impossible for one becomes the attainable for many.
Goals aid you in assessing your past, present, and future. We are always destined to repeat the mistakes of our past if we don't evaluate how we got to the present, and when we understand the present we can more effectively aim for a better future. I've started to implement something called S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunity, and Threats) into my own meetings. Look this up if you don't know about it. It's been a great assessment tool not only me personally but for our team because it allows us to implement practical solutions to problems that move us toward growth. So revisit previous goals, assess the process, and learn. Your team and clients will be better for it.
Tip Three: Listen, Have Grace, and Attack Solutions, Not People
People will fail. Projects will hit bumps. Everything wont go according to plan. To be clear I'm not talking about the incompetence of a team member in any way, that's an entirely separate conversation. I'm speaking specifically to the unforeseen events that will happen. The best possible thing you can do for the well-being and confidence of your fellow team members is to listen, have grace, and then attack the implementation of solutions. Don't attack team members, ever, or call them out in front of others because it will force those around you to choose a side subconsciously. Attacking a team member vs a problem will build walls and when walls go up, the comfortability and desire to communicate will suffer. Trust breeds teamwork, success, and loyalty. People need to know and feel that when they come up short (and believe me every person will at one time or another). It needs to be felt that together, we're better.
I come from the film world. I'm a graduate of film school and if there is one thing I know about directing a big story vision and the team needed around it to make it a success is that truly every person is as important as the next. The actors, lighting, sound, set, props, story direction, wardrobe, camera team, you name it, all have to come together perfectly to make something magical. No one is less important, they can't be, because a perfect scene, let alone a perfect movie, takes every single creative avenue performing in unison. It's really the most beautiful and difficult thing I've ever experienced in life. You need to understand and view your team like this if you have people under you, and you need to understand your leaders this way if you have people over you. We're all after the same goal: to accomplish the project in the best possible way. So listen, have grace for those around you (that doesn't mean get walked over), and attack solutions, not people.
These obviously aren't the only ways to add value to a team meeting. They're not even perfect in many regards, but if you can adopt the posture of these three tips, I promise you your workplace, team, and clients will be better for it.