As a corporate manager or team leader, you know how critical it is to have effective team meetings that bring greater alignment, creativity, and synergy to your organisation. Every meeting is an opportunity to build relationships and develop trust and collaboration capacity within the team, which in turn can facilitate greater cohesion and alignment outside the meeting room.
But what makes a meeting ‘effective’? How can you measure it, and what can you do if your team meetings are falling short of expectations? In this blog post, we will explore the importance of effective meetings and take a look at some strategies you can use to make them more engaging and productive sessions.
Team meetings are an opportunity for collective problem-solving, where diverse viewpoints are aired and explored to reach the best solution. They can be spaces for innovating and visioning, where collaborative discussions aim for bigger picture thinking and advancing organisational work.
They can also serve as a barometer for how well the team is working together in general, highlighting aspects of teamwork such as interaction, communication, collaboration, setting and managing priorities, decision-making, accountability, and big-picture thinking.
The reality of meetings, however, often paints a less harmonious picture.
According to a recent survey by Zippia:
- The average worker spends at least 3 hours a week in meetings, with 30% of workers reporting that they spend over 5 hours per week in meetings.
- Organisations spend roughly 15% of their time on meetings, with surveys showing that 71% of those meetings are considered unproductive.
- An estimated $37 billion is lost per year to unproductive meetings.
- Workers spend an average of 31 hours per month in unproductive meetings.
Another study by Harvard Business Review found that 71% of senior managers found meetings to be unproductive and inefficient, often due to a lack of clear objectives. To make matters worse, an ineffective meeting can continue to have a negative effect on productivity even after it’s over. In a recent article in the MIT Sloan Management Review, the author talks about ‘meeting recovery syndrome’, where attendees lose work time while they mentally recover from a bad meeting.
These statistics highlight a critical problem — that far too often, meetings fall short of their intended purpose, and this comes at a high cost for businesses and employees alike.
Before we explore what makes a meeting effective, let’s look at some examples of different meeting purposes.
This could involve the leader or manager broadcasting a message to ensure all attendees are aware and can implement the necessary actions. Alternatively, it could relate to all meeting participants updating each other and sharing information. This type of focus is essential for any meeting or part of a meeting where information needs to be shared or passed on to the participants.
Every team faces challenges, both big and small. One key purpose of meetings is to engage collective intelligence, bringing all viewpoints to the table to be aired and explored, with the goal of arriving at the best possible solution.
Innovation and visioning
This purpose aligns with the intent of problem solving, i.e., leveraging collective wisdom. Here, the aim is to strategise and have a collaborative discussion focused on bigger picture thinking, with the goal of developing and advancing some aspect of the work or the organisation.
Decision making and action planning
These can be considered sub-purposes of the previous two points. Here, the focus is on transforming the outcomes of the discussion and exploration into a decision-making and action planning stage. The crucial aspect is ensuring there’s aligned commitment — in other words, everyone is on the same page regarding the plan, actions, and messaging emerging from the meeting.
This is often a sub-purpose of many meetings. The focus here is on developing trust and the capacity for collaboration within the group, which then facilitates and enables greater cohesion and collaboration among all members, or subsets of members, outside the meeting forum.
The first step to making meetings more effective is understanding what that actually looks like, and the simplest definition is this: a meeting is effective if it has achieved the purposes set out by it in the first place.
Many meetings end up being pleasant social interactions with very little focused work achieved. Others devolve into a one-person show, with most team members sitting back and waiting for the leader or manager to do all the talking. Sometimes unresolved conflicts can create a tense and heavy atmosphere, which hinders productivity and makes it more difficult to focus on the purpose of the meeting.
To avoid scenarios like this, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of the purpose and goals of the agenda items being discussed before the meeting begins.
The effectiveness of your meeting can only truly be measured if (a) you are clear from the beginning about the purpose of the meeting or agenda item, and (b) the activities that take place during the meeting align with that purpose.
Consider the difference between a meeting where attendees aren’t sure why they are there and one where each agenda item has a clear purpose. In the former, you’re likely to see participants disengaged, discussions meandering off-topic, and decisions being delayed or deferred entirely. In contrast, when the meeting has a clear purpose, you are more likely to see active participation, focused discussion, and decisive action taking place.
So before your next meeting, carefully examine each item on the agenda. Reflect on the key purpose or objectives for each item, and identify the type of activity it necessitates. Is the focus on information dissemination, problem-solving, collective big-picture thinking, or something else?
Once you are clear on the purpose of the meeting, plan out the activities and talking points that align with it and that will help you to achieve your goals as a group. This one simple action will significantly increase the likelihood of achieving clear, tangible outcomes from your team meetings.
In conclusion, the key to an effective meeting lies in its purpose. Understanding this purpose can transform your meetings from time-consuming chores into valuable tools for organisational success.
If you’re a leader looking for Team Coaching or Team Facilitation to enhance your team’s performance in meetings and every other aspect of your work please get in touch.
And make sure you check out the other blog posts in this series on maximising your meetings.
Together, we can achieve excellence in your team interactions, one meeting at a time!