A look at team meetings: why they're important and how to do them well

We can spend anywhere between 35-50% of our working day in meetings – but are they always time well spent? Here’s what you need to know about making the most of your team meetings...

If an invitation to a team meeting drops into your inbox, how do you feel?

Chances are there are some meeting invites which will excite you, and others which strike you as more of a necessary evil. Perhaps there are even meetings in your schedule which routinely feel like a waste of time?

Because — let’s face it — we’ve all sat through work meetings that have been either (1) too long or uninspiring, (2) without a clear structure, (3) devoid of purpose… or maybe all three combined.

Truth is: not all team meetings are going to be action-packed and awe inspiring — but no meeting, regardless of its objective, should be a time-waster.

That’s because team meetings are invaluable opportunities to pass on information, trouble-shoot any internal issues, and motivate all colleagues towards a shared goal.

If your company’s approach to meetings goes off-kilter, you’ll likely see productivity (and motivation, for that matter) suffer as a result.

No doubt about it: regular team meetings should be an integral aspect of all managers’ organizational strategy. 

And in this article, we’ll be exploring everything leaders need to know about how to get the most value from their team meetings.

Let’s dive in…

Why bother with team meetings?

To better understand the role of team meetings within an organization, we can draw upon two quotes from the iconic industrialist, Henry Ford: 

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success” and "If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

As Ford hints at here, it’s one thing to bring a group of individuals together and call them a team. But it’s another thing altogether to bond them and encourage them to work, and move forward, together and with shared purpose.

It’s only in achieving this team cohesiveness that a business can triumph in its ambitions.

And, where will colleagues have that chance to meet, converse, align and gel? In a team meeting.

Therefore, team meetings provide a simple — but entirely essential — platform to talk. And this becomes even more important if your team is partly, or solely, made up of remote workers.

But, it’s not enough to simply bring your team together.

A good team meeting will have a purpose beyond reinstating connections. It will have a unique objective and — more often than not — a set of actions and deliverables for the team to work on, as a result of where the meeting nets out.

Which leads us to the next reason why team meetings are so important to have regularly: they foster transparency and, at the same time, increase accountability.

If you’ve ever led a large team, you’ll know how challenging it can be to keep track of what everyone is working on and when. 

In fact, this can be a challenge in the smallest of teams, too! 

Communication is the cornerstone of all organizational success, but without regular meet-ups, this communication can slip, and delegated tasks can begin to go awry.

And that works two ways: it’s not just about juniors informing their managers of their progress. 

Effective teams thrive off open communication across all levels of staff members. That’s why regular team meetings offer leaders invaluable opportunities to keep their team abreast of wider company strategy and success.

We already know that taking goals from both a team and individual level, and aligning them with the organizational objectives, helps to increase morale, team spirit and — typically — commercial success, too. 

So, it becomes clear that — when done well — regular team meetings can convert into greater profitability. But what are the need-to-knows for unlocking the potential of your team meetings?

Glad you asked.

The golden rule for team meetings: never meet without a purpose

The purpose of a team meeting will depend on its content — but each and every meeting needs to have a raison d’être.

In short: if you don’t know why you’re meeting, you’re better off not meeting at all.

Meetings with little purpose or meandering structure only tend to irritate staff members; increasing their negative perceptions of team meetings in your organization, and a hesitancy to reply ‘attending’.

The uncomfortable reality is that many meetings in business today fall into this category. Indeed, one Harvard Business Review study found that 71% of managers agree that their meetings are unproductive and inefficient, and 65% that meetings keep them from completing their own work.

So, how can leaders turn these stats on their head? How can they organize, facilitate and conclude team meetings which have real value, for both staff members and the organization as a whole?

To start: much of the ‘forming’ process can be done ahead of time

How you start a meeting will set the tone for the rest of the session.

Allowing individual or sub-team updates to dominate the first five, ten, even fifteen minutes of a meet-up will drain the rest of the team’s enthusiasm and engagement levels.

Instead, consider how you can arrive at the meeting already on the same page.

Perhaps there’s an email thread for attendees to share relevant progress updates. Maybe you can use instant messaging to set up an informal group chat. 

Duuoo’s latest team meetings feature also supports this — allowing members of the team to view and give feedback on a meeting agenda, review collective goals and re-read previous minute notes.

However you do it: cut back on the amount of time and energy spent in-person on the set up, so you can jump straight into the real meeting agenda.

All team meetings should have a clear, strategic agenda

Team meetings, regardless of size and purpose, need some form of schedule. Ideally, this agenda should be circulated between attendees ahead of the meeting time.

For one: this provides team members the chance to prepare, boosting the quality of dialogue and meeting output.

But it also gives the meeting a framework — with which any participant, not just the leader, can sense-check where the conversation is going. If a debate starts to go off topic, returning to the agenda will bring everyone back on track.

That’s not to say that anything off-agenda has no value, but these topics are better moved to a separate conversation away from the meeting. 

HBR recommends one or two ‘hot topics’ be selected per meeting. The precise number will depend on the type of team and the scope of the meeting, but the point remains that the most effective team meetings narrow in on a specific topic or topics in order to guide a productive dialogue.

… but also space for collaboration and free thinking

Having said that, a meeting shouldn’t be entirely bound by pre-determined cues.

A dialogue that’s too stringent in its content will only serve to demotivate — and honestly, bore — its participants. No one wants to be spoken at for too long.

And so, to keep the energy up, a meeting’s agenda should also leave space for creative collaboration and ‘white space’ thinking.

This can be encouraged through agenda questions, i.e. “How can we improve our social media CTAs this quarter?” rather than “This quarter, we’ll be investing more in social media to increase our CTA.”

By asking questions of your attendees, a meeting becomes more dynamic and co-created; increasing engagement, accountability and productivity as a result.

There are also ways to disrupt the status quo in your team meetings, especially if your format has begun to get a little tired or you want to stimulate new behavior as a result of your meeting.

For instance: invite in a guest speaker. Change locations or go off-site — this works particularly well for brainstorming or creatively challenging meetings. Whatever you do, make sure you always leave room for every meeting participant to voice their opinion and bring their ideas to the table.

We encourage this within the Duuoo platform by including an Anything Else section to every meeting agenda -- an open place where each and every participant can add anything they think should be included or touched upon in the meeting.

For a meeting’s content to really land with the team, facilitators need to show enthusiasm and share the limelight

Remember: just because you’re leading the meeting doesn’t mean you’re the most important person in the room.

The success of a team meeting relies on engaging each individual — you don’t want to leave anyone behind. That’s why it’s absolutely crucial for facilitators to show ample enthusiasm for the meeting; no slouching in the chair, no negative language or sarcasm, no checking your phone. If you, as the facilitator, don’t actively show (through their body language and tone) that you want to be there, how can you expect anyone else to.

And you need to ask the same of the more senior staff in the meeting, too. Between you, you’ll be exhibiting the eagerness, engagement and investment in the meeting’s effectiveness.

Equally as important, though, is letting all attendees take the floor at one point. The team shouldn’t only hear from senior voices during a meeting — in fact, much of the time junior and middle managers may have more experience with which to speak from.

If you feel you’re too dominant when leading a meeting, test yourself to take a step back. 

Ask one or two members of the team to lead on your ‘hot topics’. Plan in segments where other colleagues need to speak more than you — as a rough rule, the team leader or meeting facilitator shouldn’t speak for more than one-third of the time.

How well are you adhering to that rule today?

Read the room and flex your approach accordingly

Once a facilitator understands that the success of a meeting is dependent on its participants, the importance of reading the room becomes all too clear.

If you look around and observe your team members are yawning, distracted, taking more notes than is needed (ahem: doodling) then you’ve got a bad case of disengagement on your hands.

In this instance, change the pace. Get everyone to stand up and switch seats. Alter your facilitation style.

Ask questions. Engage.

And lastly: end with action items and agreed follow ups

We’ve already mentioned Tuckman’s team development model, touching base pre-meeting to ‘form’ the group and agenda.

But the fifth phase of Tuckman’s theory — ‘adjourning’ — also bears consideration for effective team meetings.

The final minutes of a team meeting are pivotal to how attendees will go on with their working day or week.

So, wherever possible… don’t close on a negative. 

Sure, sometimes meeting content needs to come down a little hard on attendees, but if you want your colleagues to walk out of the conference room feeling motivated and inspired, end on a positive note.

Agreeing action items and follow-ups is a great way to do this. If the team needs to work harder in a certain area, set them the challenge to do so.

When will you meet next? What can each team member do between now and then to progress towards their individual and collective goal?

Unmotivated workforces cost companies $300 billion in lost productivity each year — don’t let your organization feed that trend.

At the end of the day, team meetings are an essential part of organizational management — use them to your benefit

If leaders devote time and energy to their team meeting approach, they, too, can reap the benefits of a collectively motivated and productive workforce.

Our platform can make team meetings more impactful, bringing colleagues closer together by facilitating open communication and effective feedback loops. If your organization needs more of this, drop us a message today.


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