Previously in this series, we delved into the principles of meeting purpose and process, offering practical suggestions to enhance meeting structure and amplify attendee participation. Today, we are bringing the series to a close by outlining the key takeaways, and exploring the benefits of drafting a charter or mini-contract with your team to ensure effective meetings going forward.
One of the cornerstones of effective meetings is process management, a concept we explored in detail in previous blog posts. It can be broken down into seven key areas.
- Agenda creation: Whether it is created collaboratively or by one person, the agenda must be well-planned, comprehensive, and flexible.
- Meeting leadership: A rotating chair can offer diversity, but consistency can be achieved with a stable leader. The ideal scenario varies based on team dynamics.
- Time management: Allocate sufficient time for discussion, debate, and decision-making, respecting everyone’s time and contributions.
- Ensuring participation: A successful meeting enables every voice to be heard, fostering an environment where everyone can contribute meaningfully.
- Expectation management: Agreeing on standards for discussing issues and expressing disagreements respectfully is critical. This creates a psychologically safe environment that encourages open dialogue.
- Conflict management: Teams need to proactively manage differences and disagreements to prevent personalization of issues.
- Decision-making structures: Be clear about who has the authority to make decisions and how these decisions are made within the team.
In order to ensure that every team meeting is as effective as it can be, make sure everyone is clear on the following:
- How is our agenda set? Is it a one-person task, a collaborative effort, or does it consist of standing items?
- Who leads the meetings? Do we have a permanent chair or a rotating one?
- How do we manage time, ensuring sufficient space for discussion, debate, dialogue, and decision-making?
- How do we facilitate meaningful participation and prevent dominance by one or two voices?
- What are our expectations regarding the discussion of issues, sharing viewpoints constructively, and disagreeing respectfully while maintaining psychological safety?
- How do we handle differences and disagreements without personalising conflicts?
- How are decisions made in the meeting or team? (i.e., does one person decide, is it a consensus, etc.)
- What are the authority and accountability structures in the group that we need to be mindful of?
- How do we hold ourselves accountable for our decisions?
- Meetings are more than just talking points; they are a blend of content and process, both of which need equal focus. Think purpose first, followed by outcomes, to ensure clarity of each agenda item. The process involves managing the structure of meetings, differentiating between discussions and decision-making, focusing on key themes, and summarising to move towards conclusions.
- Encourage constructive interaction and psychological safety by establishing ground rules as a team.
- Consider the concept of ‘Step Up/Step Back’, an interaction model that encourages participants to speak authentically when they ‘step up’ and deeply listen when they ‘step back’. The ‘3 Levels of Listening’ model can also enhance the quality of interactions by encouraging participants to listen primarily to understand rather than respond.
- Adopt process management strategies such as asking open, invitational questions, acknowledging, summarising, and asking follow-up open questions.
An effective team meeting charter or mini-contract outlines the processes and protocols for meetings. It sets expectations for roles, responsibilities, and behaviours, fostering a constructive, respectful, and safe environment for open discussion. This charter should be the result of a team discussion, rather than an imposed set of rules.
If you haven’t yet, set aside some time in your next meeting to discuss the points raised in this series and develop a mini-contract or charter. This will provide the structure and guidance necessary for your team to thrive in all of your meetings going forward.
Creating an effective meeting environment is a collaborative, ongoing process that can significantly enhance team productivity and job satisfaction. This series aimed to equip you with the tools and insights needed to conduct and participate in more efficient meetings — I hope you found it helpful!
Please feel free to reach out with any questions or feedback — I’d love to hear from you!
And if you or your team could benefit from team coaching or facilitation to enhance and excel in your meetings and overall teamwork, don’t hesitate to get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org.