Effective Team Meetings…Plain and Simple

Posted in Leadership on April 26th, 2011 by Raymond Gleason

Through­out my work life, I have had ample oppor­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in and observe team meetings.

Ample means “way, WAY too many.”

Here is one thing I have expe­ri­enced from all of this ample­ness: it is very dis­tress­ing to see so many man­agers fail mis­er­ably in lead­ing meet­ings. Not to men­tion the actual cost of these meet­ings. Add up the total com­pen­sa­tion of the team sit­ting in your next meet­ing and deter­mine the hourly rate your com­pany is pay­ing for them to be there. It is frightening.

A quick Google search pro­duced 89 mil­lion results when you type in “Team Meet­ing.” Just about every­one has a per­spec­tive on what makes for a good meet­ing.
Too often, lead­ers limit their def­i­n­i­tion (and prac­tice) of effec­tive meet­ings to an agenda with top­ics for review or dis­cus­sion. This is wholly inadequate.

The fol­low­ing “3 Part Agenda Model”  is a much more effec­tive frame­work for set­ting an agenda and con­duct­ing an effec­tive meet­ing. It is plain, and it is sim­ple. If you fol­low it faith­fully (in order!), you can reduce your meet­ing times by as much as 50%.

And…you can get a whole lot more accomplished.

Part I: Information

Ques­tion: What is the sin­gle largest vio­la­tor of time in a meet­ing?
Answer: Shar­ing and exchang­ing information.

Part I of this model requires you to dis­trib­ute and share infor­ma­tion before­hand, and if need be, allow for a short “quiet time” right at the begin­ning of the meet­ing for infor­ma­tion review. No more than 15% of any team meet­ing should be allot­ted to infor­ma­tion sharing.

Part II: Discussion

This is where your address your top­ics. When it comes to address­ing top­ics, I rec­om­mend you hold to a sin­gu­lar, over­rid­ing pur­pose.  All dis­cus­sion should be seek­ing to do one of two things:

a. Clar­i­fi­ca­tion for future decision-making
b. Clar­i­fi­ca­tion for future action by the team or indi­vid­ual members

40 to 60% of your meet­ing should be ded­i­cated to DISCUSSION.

Part III: Decisions

This is where you con­struct a list of the deci­sions that must be made at the meet­ing. As a leader of a team, you have an inher­ent oblig­a­tion to be clear about exactly who is mak­ing the decision….is it the leader? Is it another man­ager? Is it the team?

A key to great deci­sions is tim­ing. It is impor­tant to not take your team by sur­prise and have them later com­plain “I thought we had already made the decision….What happened?”

DECISIONS should occupy between 25 to 45 % of your meeting.

Fol­low­ing this straight­for­ward model for cre­at­ing a meet­ing agenda is a great frame­work and a great start.  How­ever, there are numer­ous ways a team can go “side­ways” dur­ing a meeting.

Here are three of the major hur­dles to an effec­tive team meeting:

1. Allow­ing a man­ager or leader to “sto­ry­tell,” or embell­ish their exam­ple ad nau­seam. Learn to first express your ideas, con­cerns, and infor­ma­tion with­out tak­ing away valu­able time. Then, once you have learned this, teach oth­ers. Stop the war stories.

2. Allow­ing hid­den agen­das to sur­face. Keep the focus of the meet­ing exclu­sively upon the planned agenda items.

3. Allow­ing the prac­tice of going “around the room” so every­one can have a voice. When you attend a meet­ing where every­one reports — whether they have some­thing to con­tribute or not — wastes hours and hours of valu­able time.

What do you think of my “3 Part Agenda Model”?  What other hur­dles have you seen (or prac­ticed your­self) that have crip­pled the pur­pose and the suc­cess­ful out­come of your team meetings?

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6 Responses to “Effective Team Meetings…Plain and Simple”

  • Ray­mond, I believe that this stan­dard work does well in Team meet­ings. I CERTAINLY can see the hur­dles to effec­tive meet­ings as actu­ally more of an issue then the three agenda top­ics. The best agenda in the world goes nowherer with these hurdles.


  • JG:
    Right on! All too often these hur­dles can even PREVENT a leader from THINKING about a defined Agenda, much less com­mit­ting to one.

  • Coach,

    Thanks as always for the powr­ful insight.

    Might I add, aviod FOOD at meet­ings.
    One of the great time wasters is hav­ing folks focus on eat­ing rather than listening!!

    Meet­ing is not for eat­ing! It is for accomplishing!!

    Water is per­mit­ted in my meet­ings. LOL



  • Matt Milligan

    Hi Ray­mond. I agree with the hur­dles and I like your 3 part agenda.

  • Hav­ing played and coached bas­ket­ball for the major­ity of my life and now own­ing my own busi­ness, I have been a part of many team meet­ings, some bet­ter then oth­ers. The ones that went the most smoothly though is when the coach/manager stayed on topic and was in con­trol of what was being gone over. I think that in busi­ness if the man­ager will take con­trol of the meet­ing and keep every­one on task it will go much smoother. It takes a real leader to be able to do this though.

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