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HOW DO I BREATHE NEW LIFE INTO MY WEEKLY TEAM MEETINGS?

Weekly catch-ups can be a joy or a chore, depending on how much energy everyone brings to the discussion. We asked a panel of experts for their tips for making sure team members look forward to their weekly meetings and come away feeling energised and excited about the work ahead.

11th August 2021

It’s Monday morning. Or Friday afternoon. Or, heck, 2.15pm on a Wednesday. It’s the weekly internal comms meeting, where you’ll run through five, 10 or maybe three dozen projects the team has to work through over the coming weeks.

Some jobs might not have progressed since last week and some only involve two team members, but the meeting chair will mention them anyway. Everyone’s eyes glaze over after half an hour staring at a whiteboard. Some are clock-watching, wondering when they can actually get cracking on these projects. Junior members of the team haven’t said anything.

Weekly catch-ups are great opportunities to clarify what needs to be done and by whom, share ideas and projects, identify topic and project cross-overs and to socialise and build team spirit. But it’s easy to get stuck into a routine of parroting the same thing every week and to approach these meetings with a practical admin head – ticking off who’s doing what and when – rather than a creative, collaborative mindset.
 

BENJAMIN WAUGH, content & communications manager, Vevox

One of the most important factors that contributes to the effectiveness of weekly meetings is an inclusive company culture. Find out what your team is truly thinking with a word cloud poll for sentiment analysis by asking questions like, “How are you feeling about this upcoming working week?”, “What was your highlight of last week?” or just a simple “How are you feeling?” This works well as an icebreaker to check in and get everyone involved before diving straight in to work chat. You can create a poll anonymously to avoid fear of judgement.

The results can help you identify the morale of workforce week by week, especially if you run the same word cloud question over a certain time period. This enables you to either put things in place to help lift the team’s morale or to see what work initiatives or highlights really made a difference to their mood.

 

ANNETTE CORBETT, intranet and knowledge systems manager, Taylor Wessing

I make it a point, particularly for newcomers, to spend the first five or 10 minutes talking about how people are getting on, or having a conversation about pets or kids – just a social-focused chat before getting down to business. This provides “a moment of pause”, allowing people to mentally disengage from whichever meeting they have just come from or task they have been working on, before launching into the next work-related discussion. More importantly, it develops relationships; we learn something new about people – something we probably would not have discovered in a face-to-face meeting. I find that makes these kinds of meetings more productive.

 

ANDREA MACLEAN, director of communications, donor marketing, Royal Ottawa Foundation

After a year of my team staring at one another and tripping over one another to speak, I felt there had to be a better way to draw the best out of each person. Meetings were dragging on and too often I felt we weren't achieving any value and authenticity around how people were really managing. I also felt I should consider the gender make-up of my team: our women like to chat and share personal thoughts, while our men want to get straight to the point and are less comfortable staring at their boss and sharing any challenges they are experiencing.

These challenges, coupled with not getting outside enough, made me institute Walking Wednesdays. In these 30-minute walking meetings, no one has to look at each other, we're moving our bodies, and we include agenda items – with the motto ‘no agenda, no attenda’ – and allow free expression of ideas around what we should start, stop or continue doing and how we can manage our mental health. This strategy has built a layer of trust for the team to share how they are feeling, and what is working and what isn't, and a safe space to discuss ideas. By forcing ourselves out of the basement office and into the world, we're literally opening up to new ideas and possibilities – not to mention, the vitamin D being simply great for the soul. 

 

MATT REED, corporate trainer and lead trainer of Conducting Effective Meetings and Smart Meetings for Remote Working, Jarrold Training

One thing that works really well is each person sharing a positive observation about the work of another colleague during the previous week. This is great for feedback – especially for junior members – and also encourages those junior members to learn from others.

Each person is allocated a certain number of poker tips or tokens – these can be virtual. Every time you make a contribution, you use a chip; by the end of the meeting, everyone has to have used all their chips. Those who tend to talk too much have to be careful how they use their chips – once all the chips have gone, they may have to do a forfeit every time they contribute thereafter. And those who tend not to say much must contribute so they have used all their chips up – otherwise they forfeit for not contributing enough. It is a bit of fun, but also means everyone says their fair share.

Once a month, send each meeting member a list of materials to bring to the meeting (or you can provide these items) – a toilet roll, a pencil, coloured tissue paper, a ruler, an A4 sheet of paper, etc. As a creative icebreaker in the meeting, they have five or 10 minutes to build a specific thing only disclosed at the start of the meeting – like a space rocket or a wheelbarrow.

  

Voice top tips to raise your meeting game

  • Consider a change in environment. Take people away from their desks and computers to remove the distraction of personal items and emails.
  • Find out what time works best for your meeting. First thing on a Monday makes sense for a post-weekend debrief and to discuss the week ahead, but Monday mornings have a bad rep for a reason. Will everyone be alert? Friday afternoons are good for celebrating the past week and planning the following one, but your colleagues probably have one eye out the door. Poll everyone to find out what works best, and don’t be afraid to vary it up from week to week.
  • A detailed agenda may not be necessary, but share a few bullet points in advance about the projects likely to be discussed. Encourage contributions – ideas, inspiration, previous similar projects, potential issues...
  • Avoid running through your entire list of jobs. Highlight the ones that will impact most people and any with pressing deadlines. Save smaller projects for separate catch-ups with those involved.
  • Give everyone fair opportunity to talk and get involved, even if they’re not working on a particular project. Don’t make any team members feel like passengers on a journey they are obliged to go on at the same time every week.
  • Don’t get too bogged down with business. Take time to ask how people are, and warm up – or warm down – with an ice breaker task. Fun activities get the brains working, encourage interaction and lift energy levels.
  • Make sure everyone knows who’s doing what; clarify the main points and key deadlines at the end of the session.
  • Get different people to chair or run the meeting on a rotational basis, including junior members, in their own style. Encourage them to shake up the format and steer the meeting as they wish.
  • Bring in the occasional guest speaker from another department. Ask them to talk about their immediate priorities and where IC can help them. It can also help them to see how much internal comms has to juggle on a weekly basis.
  • Be time efficient. If you can wrap it up early, do so. If you’re struggling to fit everything in each week, consider making your first meeting each month a little longer to consider longer-term campaigns or strategies.
  • Balance work to do with work you’ve done. New and incomplete projects are unlikely to offer anything visual to look at, but pick one or two recent successes, and show the creative work Invite someone who worked on the project to tell everyone about it. Include positive feedback you’ve had from leaders.

 

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