3 ideas to improve the engagement levels of your team meetings

A Question of Sport, that iconic light-hearted BBC sporting quiz show is now, incredibly, nearing its 50th birthday. I’m sure we all have our favourite sporting giant as team captain, from Emlyn Hughes, desperately trying not to hug HRH Princess Anne, to giggling Willie Carson & now Phil Tufnell, who just seems high on life.

The team members are all experts in their field, whilst the captains all seem to do their homework to ensure they bring a breadth of knowledge across multiple sports. However good they are as individuals though, they have to work together as a team to win and to ensure they, the audience and the viewers have fun and were part of something entertaining. It’s a team game.

I met a former colleague a few weeks ago, he’d been part of a 100+ programme team I’d led and we shared some memories about the good old days, including the monthly all team meeting. His memories of it were really positive, he laughed at my patience in continually asking individuals on audio to “please go on mute”, but he’d actually enjoyed them!

We’ve all been in these “box-ticking exercise” team meetings, that drag on for 60 minutes (or maybe 65 minutes because the boss is running late), meetings with little energy, enthusiasm or new information. There are people doodling or checking their phones in the room and we know full well that those on the phone are doing their emails and not paying attention.

My former colleague and I explored what had made that monthly get-together something to look forward to and simply put, we realised that making them a team game worked! So how can you turn up the dial and improve the engagement scores of your team meetings?

Here are three ideas based on what I think have worked for my team meetings:

The Mystery Guest Round

Consider who else, outside of your team might be an interesting guest. Ask your team who they’d like to hear from. The team get-together is prime-time for providing your team access to hear from and to question someone that they would not normally have that opportunity to do so. Invite your boss to come along, or even your boss’s boss. Also think more broadly across the organisation, a different function or division maybe. What about externally, a client or third-party partner? It’s a two way street, your guests will get the opportunity to hear directly from your team about some of the exciting initiatives you have going on, as well as maybe triggering reciprocal invitations. A top tip though, there is nothing worse than your guests opening up the floor for questions and there aren’t any, they are hit with deathly silence! Be prepared and plant some questions!

The Captain’s Challenge Round

As the captain of your team, your challenge is to realise that this is not your meeting, yes you read that correctly! Try building a culture whereby the team meeting is viewed as being “owned” by the team, understand what they want to get out of the meeting, who they want to hear from, what they want to share, who’s performance / contribution they want to recognise and give them the opportunity to set the agenda. Whilst there will always be corporate updates, admin and logistics to cascade, this isn’t your 60 minutes in the spotlight, where you and only you “talk at” your team. Consider sharing the chairperson responsibilities as well as sharing the microphone throughout the meeting and give different team members their time on the virtual stage. If they are less confident at presenting, use it as a development opportunity, offer to help coach them to present and then provide feedback afterwards.

What Happened Next Round?

Feedback is a gift, so actively and continually solicit feedback about the team meeting, what is working and more importantly what isn’t, then act on that that feedback. It’s a slippery slope to apathy, bad habits can quickly become the norm! Keep the meeting fresh, regularly shake it up, don’t get stuck on a format that seems to work and assume that it will always work, it won’t. Feedback is also a two-way street, so be sure to quickly correct bad habits in others that aren’t working, be it punctuality (be on time / start on time), attendance (making it a priority), giving of attention (in the room or on the phone) and/or individuals who just monopolise the airspace etc. Good meeting behaviour and discipline will help keep a level playing field and keep the team engaged.
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