To make meetings more productive so they’re less of a monologue and more of a dialogue, facilitate meetings through others to drive innovation and growth. Here are 5 steps to get your team to run constructive, engaging meetings.
Reinvigorating the Redundant Meeting
Managers, as well as many other people who have to get in front of a group to run a meeting have often asked themselves, “Why do I have to be the one who always runs the meetings?” Most people in these positions believe, or assume that it is solely their responsibility to run a successful meeting. And for some, this is an absolute truth but not always. Here’s one possible telltale sign that you don’t have to.
If you’re a manager struggling to come up with an approach or topic for your next weekly/monthly (etc.) sales meeting that won’t be trite or redundant, then you’re probably asking the question to the wrong person. Said a different way, ask your team instead!
You can actually have the people who are participating in the meeting lead the meeting rather than you. It starts with the manager reaching out to their team, setting clear intentions as to why they’re making this change and what’s in it for them. Then asking the questions that tap into each person’s opinions, expectations, knowledge and creativity. Fostering healthy, open and rich collaboration can only occur when the manager informs their team they will be stepping down off of their soapbox, and let go, something managers have a very difficult time doing.
Once you have set the expectations of how the meeting will be structured and facilitated, and introduce the topic of the meeting, (refer to part one of this two part series here) it will be the questions you ask prior to each meeting that will empower your team to open up and share their ideas, challenges or requests that are timely and most important to them, so they can also be addressed during the meeting.
Those managers who have relinquished the reigns and empowered their team to take part in designing and delivering some or all of the meeting have successfully reinvigorated their humdrum, trite meetings.
Step one for you? Here are a few ideas and templates to first set expectations around what you’re doing and what’s in it for your team by being part of creating more dynamic, constructive meetings.
Five Steps to Create Meaningful Meetings
1. Empower each person to run the meeting on a rotating basis.
Provide each person on your team or anyone you work closely with an opportunity to either run the entire meeting or a portion of the meeting. Aside from the level of acknowledgement and trust this person feels, doing this helps uncover future leaders, since those who want to take on a leadership role at some point in their career will jump at the chance to demonstrate their capabilities. Then, there will be those producers who have no interest in management or less of an interest in running meetings, those who want to simply demonstrate their acumen, and those who want to more proactively help his or her peers.
Regardless of how good a manager is at running a meeting, your team is now hearing a fresh voice, which can positively change the energy and dynamic of the meeting. It also develops a more cohesive, collaborative and supportive team, when everyone is sharing the same experience.
Some companies have leveraged their manager’s time by creating a seller coach model. That is, taking a top rep who has a passion and interest in helping others and having them also provide coaching and support to the team. This complements but never replaces the manager’s commitment to consistently and effectively coaching their team.
2. Have each person present on a topic they excel at or a discussion they feel would be beneficial for the group.
For example, if you have a salesperson who is a master at presenting, closing or qualifying prospects, give them the floor to share their best practices and processes that would in turn, help develop the rest of the team. Maybe she’s big on data and an analytical genius or has mastered leveraging CRM? What if someone on your team has a particular ability to coach and wants to demonstrate that live? Watch what happens when you give people the space to shine.
3. Expectations clear? Ensure everyone is prepared for each meeting.
Whether it’s the manager or a team member running the meeting (even deal reviews, weekly meetings, performance reviews, pipeline reviews, account reviews, etc.), create a form or checklist for each type of meeting that sets a clear agenda for the meeting. The forms may be very similar for each meeting, even the one you use for your one to one coaching sessions between the coach and coachee. It’s best to send this email form to your manager a day or so prior to the meeting so they have time to review and plan for it. If need be, they can adjust or add topics that need to be covered or ones that need to be removed and re-prioritized for another time to avoid the agenda/topic overload that makes meetings unproductive. Depending upon the meeting, here are just four questions you can ask your team to respond to during a weekly sales team huddle that will provide the structure and the topics to address that they see as a priority.
- What are some successes you can share with the team? (Personally, with a client, with another cross functional team, etc.) Who would you like to acknowledge for a job well done? (This question can also uncover additional best practices the team can adopt.)
- What are your expectations of the meeting? What goals or challenges you would like to address/discuss?
- What ideas do you have when working with (marketing, procurement, sales engineers, account managers, technical support, finance, cross functional teams, etc.) that would improve collaboration, success and help make everyone’s job easier?
- What else would make our meetings more valuable for you?
These questions make people part of the process, which is also the very thing they want; instead of being preached at during every meeting. People want to feel valued, they want to contribute. So give them the opportunity to do so. Otherwise, all you are accomplishing during a meeting is making your people lazy in their thinking, since you’re carrying the entire meeting for them. Having your team be part of this process creates more participation, engagement and less work for the manager. Now, you’re empowering others to contribute to each meeting and ideas on how they can be better facilitated.
4. Find someone to take meeting minutes who can then share with the team.
Whether the meetings are face to face or virtual and can be recorded for anyone to review, it’s a good practice to have someone responsible for taking notes during a team meeting. This helps the meetings and agendas stick, keeps track of what was discussed and what people committed to doing after the meeting was over. It also helps create consistency and maintains the momentum and focus from one meeting to the next. By reinforcing what was discussed in prior meetings and what needs to be done next to achieve desired results drives forward movement, self-accountability, better outcomes and greater productivity.
5. Limit the Meeting Agenda.
I recently spoke with a manager who told me, “I had this incredibly long list of topics to discuss during our one hour weekly team meeting over the phone but only got through the first few.” As much a I wish this to be true, world peace and world hunger isn’t solved in one hour. Neither is everything you have on your agenda, regardless of how much needs to get done or how many priorities you think you have.
It’s best to see one or two topics through to completion, rather than opening up ten and getting closure on none. Agenda overload only succeeds at disrupting the focus of your team and creates confusion around what to prioritize next.
Soapbox Eradicated – From a Monologue to a Dialogue
After consistently reviewing each person’s meeting prep form and the teams as a whole, you’ll probably notice some central themes to address. This form also helps uncover coaching and developmental opportunities that may often go unnoticed, which impact people’s success. You can also bring these newly found coaching opportunities into your one to one coaching sessions with each person on your team.
Since you may not be able to cover everyone’s agenda in one meeting, responses to the questions I posed provide a list of additional topics that your team can present on, topics you can address in future meetings or ones that are more appropriate for one to one coaching sessions.
Tapping into the abilities, opinions and individuality of your team will ensure you’ll never be short of topics, healthy collaboration, and developmental opportunities, which lead to more constructive and vibrant meetings. If you’re a manager, take a seat and empower others to lead the meetings. It will advance their own skills and help develop the future leaders of the company, while staying focused on the priorities that matter most to them and the company. The byproduct, you achieve your business objectives.