5 tips to reignite your weekly team meeting

Do you feel a sneaking sense of dread when pondering your weekly team update or project meeting? Looking for a way to inject new life into that easy-chair your team has gotten into?

We’ve been watching organizations meet for years and have assembled a collection of not-so-obvious tips that will help you shake things up a bit. Scan through this list and see if you can pick out a quick pearl or three to apply in your next meeting.

1. Record it!

That’s right, capture a recording of your meeting.

Why?

Accountability and knowledge capture. By recording your meeting, you’re telling your team that what you’re talking about has inherit value and makes for content that should be shared with anyone who was absent.

You can use a handheld recorder, a smartphone or if you’re doing an online meeting, this feature is built in to Google Hangouts, Webex, GoToMeeting, etc. Promptly distribute the recording along with your meeting notes after things have wrapped up. As an added bonus, you can do a quick review of the recording to make sure you’re not talking too much.

2. Start or end at an odd time

Consider tweaking your start or end time to be just a tad different.

For example, if your meeting starts at 10 AM, consider moving it to 10:07 or 10:13. This makes meeting attendees more aware of the odd start time and forces them to plan a little more carefully to arrive on time. The familiar on-hour start or end time doesn’t force people to think and keeps established habits intact.

3. Make everyone sit in a different spot

People who’ve been with your organization for a little while will get comfortable sitting in the same place every time they enter the room.

Change this up.

Get everyone to sit in a new spot, next to someone they haven’t sat to before. You could even get a little creative assigning seats based on what month their birthday falls on, seniority with your company or even what they’re wearing!

4. Check in

Start your meeting off with a check-in. Go around your meeting room and ask each attendee to share something a) personal and b) meaningful with the rest of the team.

Depending on how verbose you want to be, you can ask something as simple as “Where’s your ideal vacation spot?” to “What’s the best restaurant for lunch in the city?” or “What was your least favorite class in college?”.

The point is to cut through the regular discourse and get everyone to really connect with each other by sharing meaningful insight into our selves. That makes for a memorable meeting.

5. Gratitude

The power of thank you is well documented.

We’ve seen this tactic work wonders when instituted in a recurring fashion. At the end of each meeting, get attendees into the habit of publicly offering thanks and accolades for others who did something special, went out of their way or just for being them. Your team will start going out of their way to think about what people did that really left an impression on them the previous week or two. Not to mention that everyone leaves the room on a high.

What a great way to start your day.

 

Google Calendar and Office 365

You’ve asked for it, and now it’s here: Trackmeet integrates with Google Calendar and Office 365!

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You can pop open a day view on the left and add a Trackmeet agenda to your existing meetings! What’s more is that Trackmeet is fully synchronized with your calendar – add a meeting in Trackmeet and we’ll turn around and push it to your Google or Office 365 calendar.

Haven’t connected your calendar yet? Login and go to “Settings” and then “Integrations” to do so. (If you originally signed up with Google, you’ll see your calendar as soon as you login!)

Speaking of integrations, we’ve added an “Integrations” page under Settings to make it waaay easier to turn all of your integrations on and off (we’ll be adding more to this list soon):

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In addition, we’ve added a getting started guide for new Trackmeet users. It’s perfect if you’re getting going and need to learn a few quick pointers. In addition, we’ve included a section dedicated to best practices we’ve picked up watching hundreds of people run meeting over the last few years.


getting-started

Demonstrating leadership in meetings

Leaders need to role model (meeting) best practices. Period.

If you have a manager that tolerates unpreparedness and fails to follow up around a meeting, how likely is it that his direct reports will do the same?

The best organizations place a premium on ensuring their leaders have the right training and tools to model meeting culture from the top.

Leaders in meetings

Who are these leaders?

We found one in Jen Sullivan, a Managing Director at Charles Swab and Co.

Jen leads by example. She sets expectations around when people are expected to show up to meetings, whether they can multi-task and ensures everyone that needs to be is engaged. She sees herself as the accountable facilitator, whose role it is to keep things on track.

“My goal is really to create an atmosphere of support where people are comfortable to do their best work” she says.

And leaders like Jen don’t need to be the center of attention. In fact, the opposite is true. Leadership in meetings, where you have a number of competing perspectives that need to be heard, is more about listening than talking. The next time you lead a meeting, ask a participant to critique your balance between listening and talking.

Specific approaches

Before we look at a few specific tips, understand that you’re being watched and studied for what’s acceptable in your organization. It’s one thing to place a set of rules on a conference room door and another to demonstrate them.

Arrive on time and finish 5 minutes early

If you expect your organization to run timely meetings, you’d better be doing so yourself. Always finish 5 minutes early. This ensures participants can make it to their meeting on time. Having said this, ideally you…

Don’t book back-to-back meetings

It’s hard enough to digest the contents of one meeting, let alone do so while rushing to another. Block off areas of your calendar between meetings. Your team will see these and understand its OK to do the same to their own.

Always follow up

Always. Follow. Up. The communications cadence you establish before and after your meetings will get adopted elsewhere in the organization. Speaking of follow up, reviewing action items should be one of the first things you do in every meeting. By doing this you demonstrate a consistency around capturing work items, following up around them and checking them off when they get done.

No agenda – no attenda

Set the expectation that you won’t show up to a meeting without an agenda. Pretty soon, all the meetings that need one will get one. 🙂

Why we love the Shawshank Redemption

Who among us doesn’t like the cinema?

The multiplex is going out of style, and Hollywood may be focusing on blockbusters and every form of prequel/sequel known to man, but they do, occasionally, get it right. The Shawshank Redemption is, in fact, #1 on IMDB’s list of the best movies ever. Fabulous film, right?

The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it’s as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues.

-Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures

(This is the part where I segue into Trackmeet, oh dear reader…)

The team here at Trackmeet, like most other development teams, breaks work into chunks called “sprints”.

From the beginning, we’ve used specific themes to identify a group of sprints. For a time, our theme was countries. Each sprint was a country, and each sprint had a poster. This was the wall on our office for a time:

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To make things a little more playful, we chose images that were indirect references to countries. For example, notice the Lego poster? That’s the “Denmark” sprint.

We grew tired of the countries meme after doing 20 or so. So it was time to move on. And so, you guessed it, we’re on to movies. Here’s our wall today:

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We alternate choices for sprint names in a round-robin fashion through the team, which gives us ample opportunity to critique each others taste (or lack of it) in movies. 🙂

I’m a baseball fanatic – can anyone guess my recent choice?

Multiple Personalities

Multiple Personality Disorder? Not so great. Multiple personalities in meetings? A fact of life.

How do you go about managing all the different personality types you’re sure to encounter in meetings?

We’ve been reading Cameron Herold’s new book on meetings, affectionately called “Meetings Suck”.  (Cameron points out that meetings themselves don’t actually suck… the people running them, on the other hand, could use a little help)

In it, he devotes a chapter to addressing personalities, using a chart like this:

chart

This is a personality quadrant chart that splits people’s behavioral style into Analytical-Driver-Amiable-Expressive categories. If you haven’t yet gotten insight into your own personality, I highly recommend it – there are a number of online tools for doing this. I really like and have used 16 Personalities. Your personal ROI for the 20 minutes to take the test and interpret the results is compelling. In fact, consider having everyone on your team do it and compare results!

In this model, the four personality styles are:

Analytical – Analytical people are known for being systematic, well organized and deliberate. These individuals appreciate facts and information presented in a logical manner. They enjoy organization and completion of detailed tasks. Others may see her at times as being too cautious and overly structured.

Driver – These people thrive on the thrill of a challenge and the internal motivation to succeed. Drivers are practical folks who focus on getting results. They can do a lot in a very short time. They usually talk fast, direct and to the point. Drivers are often viewed as decisive, direct and pragmatic.

Amiable – People who are amiable are dependable, loyal and easygoing. They like things that are non-threatening and friendly. They hate dealing with impersonal details and cold hard facts. They are usually quick to reach a decision. Amiables are described as warm and sensitive to the feelings of others.

Expressive – These individuals are outgoing and enthusiastic, with a high energy level. Expressives are great idea generators, but usually don’t have the ability to see the idea through to completion. They enjoy helping others and are particularly fond of socializing. They are usually slow to reach a decision. Often thought of as a talker, overly dramatic, impulsive, and manipulative.

Having done a few personality tests over the years, I personally test out as an Expressive-Driver. I feel elated checking off accomplishments and love working and helping others. I genuinely feel angry if I don’t make it through my mental to-do list every day, have a high energy level and speak quickly.

It should be noted that opposite personality types often clash! Amiables view hard charging Drivers as emotionless and uncaring. Drivers see Amiables as overly sensitive worry-warts. Analytics perceive Expressives as overly bombastic know-it-alls, while Expressives see Analytics as overly fact-oriented and boring. Be aware of this if you’re working with someone in the opposite quadrant. 🙂

Within a work setting, we generally maintain our personality styles, but they do shift based on the situation. When working with your boss you may skew Amiable, but leading a call with your customer you demonstrate Expressive and Driver qualities, for example.

Cameron points out that, as stewards of the meetings we participate in it’s important to recognize the different personalities that make up our meetings and to work to accommodate (and in other cases, manage) everyone. With such a wide array of styles sitting around the table, where do you start?

Step1 – Identify Dominant Styles

Step 1 is clearly to identify the personality styles for those who make up your team. We recommend actively observing each of your team members to help identify their dominant traits. For example, on our team Gioele is generally Expressive, Ian is Analytic and Noah is Amiable. Gioele thrives on experiencing new places and things (he explored Brazil last year and is about to travel to the Yukon for a week long canoe trip). Ian likes to sit back and gather information before providing a wise and thoughtful response, and is mechanically gifted. Noah is accommodating and sensitive to those around him.

Step2 – Generate a plan

For the people and styles you identified in step 1, assemble a list of approaches you can use for each:

Analytical – Present facts, numbers and data, be objective and discuss opposing perspectives, stay away from feelings, use a formal approach, discuss options and the benefits/drawbacks of each

Driver – Get to the point, make direct eye contact, be clear, arrive on time, speak quickly, focus on outcomes and results, don’t chit-chat

Amiable – Make eye contact but look away periodically, ask them how they feel about things, encourage them to share, listen as much as possible, avoid pressure filled decisions

Expressive – Focus on the bigger picture vs. details, allow time for socialization and bonding, maintain balance between fun and outcomes, speak with pronounced voice

Within our own team, I try and match styles. When interacting with Gioele I’m upbeat and excitable. With Ian, I value his input and look for opportunities to let him contemplate and provide his opinion. I’m keen to learn what Noah is up to and actively seek out his feelings.

Step 3 – Interact and observe

Using the tactics you developed in step 2, interact with your team. Try one or two approaches at a time and observe the outcome. Did your colleague respond? If so, make a note and revisit this approach. If not, try another tactic from your plan. Repeat!