9 Rules of Effective Team Meetings

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January 14, 2020 by Alex

Let me ask you a question.

Have you ever had a meeting scheduled 45 minutes after the stand-up? Have you been able to do any productive work before it?

Hardly can get into any deep enough focus before such distraction. It’s frustrating, I know!

Also, do you remember that time when some important decision was to be made at 7 freaking PM?? You didn’t have any energy and not so invested in making the best choice at this point, which is entirely fair at this time.

Nor your colleagues.

How successful was that decision then? Not so great, I guess.

What do you think about heated discussions that can’t come to a close after 4-5 hours straight? Yeah, I know, you’re lucky to have had that lunch break in the middle…

And how often did you feel that you shouldn’t have been invited to the meeting in the first place? Because you really don’t have anything to contribute or you trust others to make the right decision?

If any of these questions evoke bad memories of worst meetings in you, then you’re in for a treat.

Here is a short list of four rules to make your team’s meetings effective again:

1. Early in the morning, right after the stand-up.

As a knowledge worker, you don’t want to have 30-60mins between your start of the day and important meeting. You’re likely not to be able to focus on anything deeply.

It’s frustrating, I know!

Also, if the decision is important, you want your people not to be tired when making it. Otherwise, they’ll be pretty bad decision-makers, right?

2. Short. Non-negotiable time limit.

If you allow your meetings to run more than 15-60mins, then you’re likely to have 5-6 hours discussion where opposing sides with strongly-held opinions can’t agree on the decision.

Put a hard time limit in place.

This will force people to not waste time on what’s not important in the meeting.

3. The 2nd best decision is better than no decision at all.

Have a team come up with some decision, even if not everyone agrees. Adopt the mantra “A decision is better than no decision. We can always correct the course when we have more information.”

4. Minimum viable audience.

If you can make this decision with only 3 people instead of 12, then go for it, and pull people as you need them and if you need them only.


Contributed by commenters:

5. No meeting without an Agenda

(by Martin Riedel)

If you get an invite without agenda and unclear goal, just decline it. If somebody asks why tell them that there was no agenda.

6. Rule of the two feet

(by Dimitri Merejkowsky)

If you feel like you can’t contribute to the meeting in any useful manner, or you don’t think that the meeting has any value for you or for your team/org, then just use your two feet—leave the meeting.

Surely, everybody needs to understand this rule and accept that this might happen.

7. No phubbing. No screens allowed other than presenter’s one.

(by Dimitri Merejkowsky)

Don’t use your phone or tablet—they’re forbidden. Some apps allow whole group to block their screens on their phones for the time of the meeting, and if somebody phubbs, then the entire group gets “punished” in some virtual way (for example, your virtual tree dies, and you have to start over).

If the meeting needs a presenter’s laptop, this is alright. If you need to take notes, then do it on pen&paper.

If you have somebody who protocols the meeting, they can have a protocol laptop (single-purpose device: there should be no distractions possible on such a laptop).

8. Have a facilitator

(by Alex Fedorov)

Have a person responsible for running the meeting. This shouldn’t be a manager of any sort. The facilitator’s role is a role of servantship, not management.

They’ll make sure that we’re not diverging too much from the agenda, keep track of time, and make sure to table discussions that are not going anywhere or are too disruptive for goals of the meeting.

This person should be a rotating role so that every team member gets a chance to be one.

9. Manage your manager/stakeholder… if you have to

(by Alex Fedorov)

You know, that troublesome scenario where people avoid their commitments (decided from the meetings) pretending that they’ve forgotten or misunderstood, etc. This fosters a lot of negativity and conflict. Oh, and especially if they are a stakeholder or something like this.

In this case, documenting all the decisions made is great, and sending them as an email to:

  1. Make sure both parties are on the same page and wish to commit to this.
  2. To hold everyone accountable, including your stakeholder(s) or manager(s) later when “sh$t hits the fan.”

Thank you for reading! If you liked this, please share the article on your favorite social media!

How do you improve your meetings? Reach out to me on Twitter!


(picture from Pexels)

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