Everyone’s been to a meeting that didn’t mean much at all. You listened to the leader tell about all the things that are wrong with what the team is doing. They gloss over the real issues and wonder why everyone’s not excited.

Other times you set in a meeting where PowerPoint slides are read to the group. Occasionally there’s a question asking if there is any feedback. Silently you are thinking about where you’re going for lunch. The person sitting next to you is making their grocery list. You’ve got a hundred things to do, and the meeting is a big waste of your time.

Use Team Meetings to Improve Organizational Performance

If your business is changing rapidly due to growth or customer expectations, then having employees who can think vs. being on remote control is an essential part of business development. Cross sharing ideas and developing the inner group of leaders creates the winning culture that can shift on a dime. Many of your long-term employees know what has to be done to perform in their role while others don’t.

Internal communication is key to building a team of people

Every organization communicates to their employees in various ways. While some executives use email, others only use face to face. There are meetings with two people or a small group or the whole company. The key is to foster internal communications that get business results.

Several factors contribute to reaching peak organizational performance. Internal communication is a pillar on the foundation.

Developing an internal system of communications is more useful when it’s planned vs. just winging it.

  • Having regularly scheduled meetings allows for everyone in the chain to be prepared.
  • Agenda driven, focused communications are essential to not waste time and energy.
  • Measuring and tracking the follow-up action items creates accountability.

Controlling the Rumor Mill

Many say you can’t control the rumor mill and for the most part I agree, but not entirely. You start to control the rumor mill by having engaged employees. What your employees tell their family and friends about the company they work for should be very close to what they say while they are in the company. Mismatches signal that you don’t have a fully engaged employee. Internal communications are essential to bridging the gaps.

First Things First

Before you start more widespread communications within the business, the management team should be in alignment. They are the leaders and influencers in the business. How they act and portray themselves is a key to creating a dynamic culture.

People follow what you do more so than what you say

Rule: Executives and leaders should not backstab each other. There will undoubtedly be disagreement, that’s healthy, but backstabbing undermines the ability to build trust. Trust is one of the pillars in the foundation to reach peak performance.

A high-level interchange in a meeting where the spirited leaders aren’t afraid to challenge the boss creates a learning culture. This is the environment where everyone learns it’s safe to challenge someone, as long as it’s done with respect and appreciation. Loud, arguing, cursing is never acceptable. If an employee has an idea, but reluctant to share it, you could be missing out on a super opportunity.

Create a “safe” environment for each personality to be comfortable sharing their ideas.

Rule: You can’t fake cultivating consistent internal communications. Either you are communicating or you are not.

To achieve operational excellence, either you make time to communicate or you don’t. Just because you get busy doesn’t mean you should stop communications. I’ve seen too many times an executive decides to cancel a group meeting because they don’t practice effective delegation and are always in crisis. When the team has prepared and planned for the meeting only to have it canceled at the last hour, this trickles down and disrupts everyone’s sense of time management.

In practical terms, meetings are called with short notice. Many times there isn’t an agenda, or the attendees don’t even know why they’re invited. I totally support this approach but that doesn’t take the place of formal communications.

Make your meetings get the results you intend with better planning!

Input Equals Buy In

If you are a seasoned team or just getting started, consider these tips and strategies to improve your business results from meetings!

  1. Make every attempt to have a meeting on a scheduled day. Consistency is a key to allow each participant to know ahead of time that a meeting is going to take place. Everyone can be better prepared.
  2. If you have varied business cycles, it’s essential that you honor the meeting dates despite being busy. Many times when you are the busiest is when you need to communicate the most.
  3. Consistency with guiding and developing internal communications will propel the company toward the future and not just focus on the day-to-day challenges.
  4. Any alteration in a meeting date needs a minimum 24-hour notice to all participants. A 48-hour notice is even better. If using email to inform, require manual feedback not automated.
  5. For each meeting, prepare a written topical agenda and give it to each person at least one day before the meeting date. Each department leader should offer specific topics to be discussed and submitted two days before the meeting so it can be included on the meeting agenda. The written questions need to have a few spaces under each one so that everyone can write out the action statement and initial of the person responsible for each action.
  6. Each department manager should go to their support staff and ask for input on the agenda. When the meeting is over, the manager should report back to the team and inform them of the status of issues and any new developments.
  7. Start the meeting on time and end on time. Even when the conversations get going, it is important to start and end on time. Keep an eye on the clock for 15-minute intervals. Let it be known that time is running out and the specific topic needs to be tabled or solved (at least tentatively).
  8. Allow no interruptions, as much as possible. Shut off phones and tell the receptionist to hold all calls. Laptops should be closed unless it’s needed for the meeting. If someone is late for the meeting, do not recap for him or her. If you recap for this person a message is sent to the rest of the participants that it’s okay to be late, they always bring you up to date. Respect everyone’s time by keeping the meeting flowing and getting everyone to participate. By not recapping, this lets everyone know you’re committed to starting and ending on time and late arrivals get no special treatment.
  9. During the meeting itself, let each person talk about the particular topic. Ask them to be precise and not to vary from the original topic. It is your responsibility to ensure each person stays on track. When it is needed, kindly and with a smile, asks them to get back on track with the original topic. Stay away from spin-off topics. These topics are very common and should be noted for future meetings.
  10. At the close of the meeting, have people specifically verbalize what they are going to do concerning the topics discussed. Take it one item at a time and one person at a time. The concept here is that if each person truly understands their role in making the changes, and announced it “in public”, they are more likely to complete the task. I suggest you make this attempt both to help the attendees become more responsible for their role in whatever topic is raised and to summarize for clarity.
  11. Once everyone writes out the action statement on the agenda, this becomes your meeting minutes. This has to become a ritual to inform and document what is happening. Sharing information across departments or divisions is essential to cross pollinate knowledge and inform or build consensus.
  12. If you can cover three topics in each group meeting, great, but if you see that you have five on the list and you only cover three, make the next meeting topic four. Always judge the number of topics to be included in the meeting by the speed of the groups’ ability to properly talk about them and promote the solutions. If you can only cover three, put four on the agenda. If you can cover twelve, include thirteen on the agenda. You may need to adjust this due to the complexity of topics, group participation and time allotment.

Use Solution Focused Facilitation to Get Results

  • During the meeting, each Manager should offer one specific topic at a time, and then the other Managers need to make sure they completely understand the issue. Some discussion should occur to ensure everyone understands the specific problem. The objective is to stick to the specific topic and make sure everyone understands what the issue is from the Manager’s perspective.
  • After there is a clear understanding of the issue, and each Manager is convinced the other Managers see the same thing, the Manager who offered the topic needs to offer two possible solutions.
  • All Managers should openly discuss the pros and cons of the solutions. One person should speak at a time, with each person listening while the others verbalize their thoughts.
  • To develop a new and better solution, there should be consensus on the solution offered by the Manager or the contributions by others.
  • When one manager drops the ball, it’s the responsibility of the other leaders to speak up about how the ball got dropped and share ideas to prevent it from happening in the future.

To achieve operational excellence, consistent formal and informal communications are essential to master. Either you are working to achieve operational excellence or you are not. You can’t fake it.