Employees are hired individually; as individuals, they’ll show up, do the assigned work, and draw their pay.
When we organize them as a Team, they gain a sense of belonging and purpose that inspires a higher level of effort and participation. A team creates commitment to common goals and personal pride in their roles in achieving them.
The most effective setting for building and maintaining a team is team meetings. They allow members to share goals, coordinate roles and responsibilities, communicate progress, find opportunities for cooperation, participate in decisions, plan and adjust strategies, celebrate achievements, and more.
But team meetings are time-consuming and expensive. Adding up the hourly costs of the attendees is often startling—the value of the work they might do in that time is presumably higher than that. As a result, team meetings need to be well planned, concise, and focused, and contain only information that is pertinent to everyone who attends. Topics and projects that don’t involve the whole group should be discussed in smaller groups.
Employees get the most from meetings when each has a responsibility and is encouraged to participate, collaborate, and share opinions.
Here’s one of Mike’s meetings:
Tuesday morning, 8:30
M: Good morning. We’re all here and on time. Thank you.
Starting on time shows Respect for the attendees and their time. Meetings that start haphazardly set an unfocused tone and indicate to team members it’s OK to wander in—and sometimes out.
M: Lisa distributed our team results. Lisa, can you summarize them?
L: Our QC score this week was 99.2%, beating our goal by .2%. We had one return-for-quality—a problem with.... No safety incidents—3rd week running. We met our production schedule of.... And we....
M: Results to be proud of. Congratulations!
Putting results first on the agenda confirms the team’s Objectives and focus. The results tracked (preferably selected with input from the team) are the Score and send a strong message about the team’s purpose and goals.
Delegating data collection and reporting to a team member creates Participation in the meeting and signifies that the results are a team effort and accomplishment.
M: MVP award. Gina?
G: Nominations? Who did something extraordinary this week?
A: I’ll nominate Frank. Our dealer in Des Moines needed an obsolete part for a key customer. Somehow Frank turned one up and shipped it overnight.
S: Ben. He devised a new fitting procedure that’s faster and....
C: Rhonda. She….
G: Any more nominations? OK, all in favor of….
G: Rhonda is our MVP this week. [Applause as Rhonda accepts an MVP coffee cup.]
Weekly meetings are an ideal setting to recognize team members’ contributions and to show and foster Respect.
Nominations from the team reflect and reinforce the team’s values, and the team’s vote enhances the award’s value.
Awards need not be elaborate or expensive. The most treasured are often those that can be used proudly or displayed prominently—pens, cups, card holders, ribbons, certificates, etc.
M: Updates? Let’s start with you, Karen, and go around the circle.
K: Last week we began the campaign for the new.... So far, we’ve got 83 orders. Now we’re preparing for the Chicago show, and we....
M: Congratulations! Ben?
B: We finished the prototype for...; this week we’ll get your feedback on it. Then we’ll experiment with the finishes you’ve been asking for.
M: Looking forward to seeing both. Cindy?
C: On Friday we had....
Each person telling what they’ve accomplished since the last meeting and what they’re working on now promotes teamwork, coordination, and understanding. People work together better when they understand each other.
M: Ok, sounds like a good last week and a full next week. Announcements?
K: There’s a seminar Tuesday on.... Anyone who would like to attend can....
G: One of our dealers, Tom Walton of Armageddon, is in town and coming this afternoon for a tour. Please make him feel welcome.
M: Thanks, Gina. Maybe we should straighten up our areas.
A: Betty, in the main office, had her baby Monday if you’d like to send her a card or note.
T: She’s a great resource for us. Why don’t we send a group card?
M: Good idea, Tom. Who can get the card and collect the signatures? Thank you, Rhonda.
B: I’d like to get everyone’s thoughts this week on our new....
M: Any more announcements?
And Mike dedicates part of each team meeting to Improving knowledge and skills.
M: OK, after Tom’s amazing feat last week turning an unhappy customer into a big fan, I’ve asked him to share some of his magic with us this morning. Tom?
Speakers for team meetings are plentiful, but the best are often on the team. Many have accrued impressive knowledge and talent, and they’ve fine-tuned their skills and techniques to work in the specific environment.
A few minutes of each meeting spent on Improvement add up to some impressive team skills. The topics selected reinforce the team’s values and goals.
Inviting a staff member to share their knowledge conveys Respect. Most will work hard to prepare, examining and refining their ideas, planning their presentation, and enhancing their commitment to its concepts.
When needed knowledge doesn’t already exist on the team, the topic can be assigned to a team member to research and present. The presenter typically works hard to make a credible presentation, becoming the team expert—another source of Respect, pride, and recognition.
M: Thanks, Tom. I picked up several ideas I’m going to use.
We’re out of time. Thanks to all of you for what you do. Let’s have another great week.
Ending meetings on time again shows respect for employees and their time.
Mike’s meetings are focused, positive, and participative. Humor and personal information and accomplishments are welcome in appropriate measure and enhance team spirit, but the conversation generally stays close to purpose.
A regular meeting schedule is the best assurance that the meetings will take place. Irregular and infrequent team meetings are difficult to schedule, as other priorities and obligations often preempt them until they’re eventually abandoned.
Weekly is typically the right frequency and first thing in the morning tends to reduce conflicts and interruptions.
Team members who don’t work onsite can attend by phone or video conference. Neither is as effective as face-to-face meetings, but they’re often the best method available to help distant team members be part of the team.
Every team member should attend every full-team meeting whenever possible. Those who don’t attend weaken their connection and coordination with the team, typically leading to misunderstandings, disagreements, and reduced support.
There are always a few team members who don’t understand the value of building a team and feel their individual work should take precedence. When they skip a meeting, the rest of the team watches to see if it’s allowed; if so, team meetings are soon sparsely attended.
Mike addresses absences quickly to prevent them from becoming habitual and spreading within the team.
Missing a Team Meeting
Mike finds Paul after Paul misses a team meeting.
M: We missed you in the meeting this morning, Paul. Is everything OK?
P: Yes, I just had to get ready for my customer this afternoon.
M: Is there a way to prepare before or after our meeting? You’re an important part of the team and you often have something valuable to share. Plus, I like the others to hear what you’re doing.
P: OK, I can do that. I didn’t realize you needed me.
M: Thanks, Paul. I appreciate your positive attitude.
Small teams need meetings too. The excuse that, “...