If you have ever come to the end of a meeting and thought to yourself: "this could have been an email" or left wondering what your next actions should be, you are not alone. The sad reality is most of us feel the majority of meetings are unproductive and not tapping into the true collaborative potential of our teams. Yet we also know that consistent communication is vital to leading our organizations to accomplish our mission. So how do we strategically leverage our team touch points so that there is a designated space for every type of conversation, and that every voice is heard? First you need to determine what kind of conversation to have. Then decide the type of meeting you need to have. We've consulted pulled together some thoughts from wise leaders (shout out Patrick Lencioni) and synthesized a few practical ways to make effective communication a regular practice. Here are a few of the types of meeting rhythms you can implement to optimize team communication and collaboration.
Perhaps the most ignored type of meeting is the daily, five minute huddle. When we think of meetings, we tend to think of settling into a conference room for long hours and complex agendas. In reality, what may be needed is a quick touch point to set the tone and agree on strategic priorities for the day.
Gather your team together in a standing circle or video call and very briefly recalibrate everyone around what is most important for the whole team. The challenge is to be concise and brief. Doing this consistently will slowly but surely keep everyone on track and connected because everyone knows they will not have to go more than a day to be reminded of their focus as a team.
The importance of healthy primary teams cannot be overstated. A primary team is defined as peers who share a common goal. So ask yourself, who shares this goal? Which team members share a common scoreboard? Chances are those team members should be in a primary team and would benefit from a weekly tactical meeting. A tactical meeting is focused on celebrating the past week, reviewing key metrics and measurements, each member sharing top objectives for the week, and addressing pressing issues related to that team's focus.
Pro tip: If you have a small team (or if it's literally just you and another person), chances are you will be wearing all of the hats. Instead of trying to cram everything from marketing to operations to fundraising into one long meeting, having different tactical meetings is a great way to distinguish when you should be having which conversation. Eventually, as you grow, those teams will develop and take on those meetings. In the meantime, having function specific tactical meetings, even with the same people, is a great way to drive all of the operations of your work with intention and clarity.
Ad-hoc Strategy Meetings
We've all been in those meetings that get overtaken by a topic or issue that really deserves a meeting in and of itself. Here's a game changing discipline to introduce so you can keep meetings from going off the rails. First, recognize when a separate strategy meeting is necessary. As you are addressing agenda items in your weekly tactical and you notice that there is more to discuss on this issue, schedule a time and day for an hour to two hour deep dive into that subject. These meetings should be hyper focused on solving that particular issue, creating the plan, or developing the idea in question. After you schedule the meeting, make sure to invite all the necessary team members that should be present. Having strategy meetings scheduled as needed alleviates the pressure from other meeting rhythms to address all strategic decisions.
Our brains can only imagine a future about 90 days out. Beyond that, with the rapid rate of change in our industry and environment, things get fuzzy and ambiguous. So planning ahead beyond a quarterly time frame should only be for higher level vision. However, that higher vision can only be achieved through strategic transformational goals set for a quarterly time frame. Holding a quarterly planning meeting with you and your leadership team will focus your entire organization on the initiatives and objectives that are most strategic to reaching your vision.
As humans, we need markers of time and season. One of the practices of leadership is being able to thread together the happenings over the past year to remind your team of all that you have accomplished, and some years, all you have overcome. Beyond the nitty gritty of detailed planning and execution, the annual retreat is really dedicated to the leadership capacities of relating and visioning. At an annual retreat, we are having meals together, sharing stories, and connecting as people. It's in this space that you and your team can celebrate the achievements of one another and affirm the efforts of the team over the past year. From that place of trust and support, you can then cast the vision for the year to come.
Pro Tip: Space and setting play a huge part in cultivating the right environment for a successful annual retreat. Consider making the investment in going to another location to hold the retreat. You may also want to consider bringing in an outside facilitator for the guided parts of the retreat so that you fully participate with your team.