I was recently talking with a new client in preparation for our first consulting visit. This was a routine call that I typically do with the leader to ask some basic questions about their team culture and organizational health. It’s a quick way for me to get insight into how the leader leads and how their team operates. Usually it’s a brief peek into their habits which helps me prepare for working with them.
Fast Growth–Remote Work–Change Management all Exacerbate Complexity
As with many of the clients we serve, this was a young organization that had grown rapidly and found themselves frustrated with the difficulty and complexity they were facing. Not uncommon at all.
But after asking just a few questions, I discovered a significant trouble spot that was incredibly easy to fix.
This leader and his team had no structure or rhythm for meeting together.
“How do you get anything done?” I asked.
“Well, it’s getting more and more difficult.” Mike replied. “When there were just a handful of us on staff, we just kind of figured out how to get the information we needed. We were constantly together so it was never a problem. Now, there are dozens of us at different office locations and working remotely with varying work schedules, and it seems like it’s harder than ever to get even the simplest things done. Let alone actually hold anyone accountable for their work.”
Why Do We Fear Meetings?
What Mike expressed to me is something I’ve heard from too many leaders. It’s a common reality, especially for organizations that start small and grow rapidly. Creating meeting structures feels bureaucratic. We fear we’ll lose the relational culture and spontaneous spirit that helped us get to where we’ve gotten so far. We resist it rather than recognize that without it we could actually begin to lose the very thing we’re clinging to.
Most of us resist creating weekly staff meetings and regular one-on-one meetings with our team because we’re afraid of boring meetings that everyone hates. Throw in “zoom fatigue and kids at home with remote-learning” and the hesitance to call a meeting grows even more. I get it.
But I believe that we have to reframe our perspective on this, because as a leader you need regular time with your team in order to lead from your extraordinary best. And THEY need time with YOU too. To see that you’re human and to see that you’re attending to their needs while also remaining passionate about the mission you are all serving together. We need to view meetings as opportunities to build culture.
Personally, I believe you need to establish a meeting rhythm as soon as you have someone else you’re working with to accomplish a shared goal. Whether there are two of you or 2,000, regular touch-points for connecting and communicating are essential for your effectiveness as a team. I like to think of meetings as “intentional conversations around a shared goal.”
3 Tips for Creating Great Team Meetings
1) Determine the Purpose
Why are you meeting? The reason so many of us are resistant to creating regular meetings is because we fear the boredom of monotonous information that doesn’t help us actually get our work done. As a leader, you’ve got to own this and be committed to creating meetings that unite the team and equip each person to do their job better. If a meeting doesn’t move the mission forward, cut it. If the mission isn’t moving forward, start gathering the troops for a regular meeting.
2) Be Prepared
Another reason we have meeting-phobia is that people (including us as leaders) often show up unprepared. This is why most meetings feel like a waste of time. Set an agenda ahead of time. If you’re leading the meeting, send the agenda as well as any prep work the team needs to do in adequate time for them to be prepared as well. If you’re naturally a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants leader, you will falsely assume that everyone else operates similarly. They don’t. Your team will be more prepared and contribute more confidently if they have had time to think about the topic or prepare necessary information for the meeting.
3) Make it Predictable
Your team needs consistent rhythms of work. Most of us face enough surprises and curve balls in our regular work and in our lives in general. Sporadic meeting schedules don’t need to add to the chaos. Determine how frequently you need to meet to effectively accomplish your shared goals and then commit to that schedule.
None of us want to be victims of “death by meetings” but we also don’t want to experience loss of trust or effectiveness because of not meeting. Gather your team and get stuff done!
Keep leading well!
Jenni Catron and The 4Sight Group
Jenni Catron is a writer, speaker, and leadership coach who consults churches and non-profits to help them lead from their extraordinary best. She speaks at conferences and churches nationwide, seeking to help others develop their leadership gifts and lead confidently. As Founder and CEO of The 4Sight Group, she consults with individuals and teams on leadership and organizational health.
Jenni is the author of several books, including Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence and The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership.