Okay, let’s get into this. Confession time.
When I first started working, I LOVED meetings. They were my chance to hear from folks higher up the chain about what the heck was going on at my org! Plus, I wasn’t that busy…back then.
4 years later & everything’s changed. I’m a seasoned grump that has way too much on her plate, which means I’m dodging calendar invites like Leon from the Matrix. If that’s even his name. Is that his name?
I think it’s safe to say that for most of us, team meetings are a necessary evil.
40% of the time they’re not organized, 80% of the time they could’ve been emails, and 90% of the time they’re much longer than they need to be.
But believe it or not, we’re actually part of the problem.
When we’re not the ones leading these meetings, we tend to relinquish all responsibility in how effective they are. But we do have some agency in making sure that the time is as productive as possible – both for our ourselves, and our colleagues.
Let’s do better, starting now.
9 Ways We All Can Do Better In Team Meetings
1. We need to come prepared.
That means reading the agenda in advance. Don’t let the meeting be the first time you’re doing this! You want to show up with some idea already of what’s getting covered, because that will get your gears turning about the points you’ll want to raise.
Besides, if we’re processing the agenda AT the meeting, then our attention isn’t on our speakers…which brings us to #2.
2. We need to be better at actively listening to one another.
Many of us assume if we’re in the room hearing someone speak, then we’re doing our part. But active listening – the process of seeking meaning & understanding from someone else’s words – isn’t a default mode that we can enter without trying. It’s a mental switch we have to flip, to make sure we’re really invested in the conversation.
3. We need to leave our devices at the door.
Let’s be real. If I bring my phone or laptop, it’s because I’m going to do something that is 100% not related to the meeting. Even if I don’t mean to!
Reality is, we humans are easily distracted. And modern technology was basically built to hog our attention! The most honest thing we can do is leave the devices in our drawer, so that we’re truly present.
4. We need to take notes, even if we don’t use them.
This isn’t about creating extra work for ourselves, I promise. It’s science! The act of putting thought to paper triggers a bunch of really cool, important brain processes that improve our memory and understanding of a subject. And it doesn’t matter so much what we write, just the fact that we do it.
5. We need to stop interrupting our colleagues and finishing their sentences.
If you’ve gotten this far in the post, I’m willing to bet you’re fairly conscious about this sort of thing. But I’ll say it anyway! Because SO many of us are quick to jump into the middle of someone’s sentence to make our point, or to assume we know exactly where our colleagues are going with something.
We need to let them finish their points before we get to ours. It’s the respectful, productive thing to do.
6. The quieter of us need to speak up.
To my shy, introverted geniuses: I get not wanting to speak up in meetings. Sometimes it’s intimidating, and other times you haven’t had enough time to process. But that’s where #1 comes in! Come prepared with a constructive thought or question to share. And while you’re taking those brain-stimulating notes, jot down any points of interest or questions that may pop up.
Because frankly, this quiet schtick won’t fly forever. Silence is often taken as a sign of disinterest or indifference, and can hold you back in your career. So even if you do it in small bursts to start, you really ought to participate!
*Tip:* If there’s any exception to this rule… it’s the staff-wide meeting. Because I’m sure there are plenty of personalities chiming in on that one.
7. The louder of us need to quiet down.
To my not-so-shy, conversation dominators: I know, you have lots of great ideas. And they’re probably all important to share! But if that means you’re speaking 60% or more of the time and this isn’t your meeting, then something’s wrong here.
The point of a team meeting is for everyone to listen and have the chance to offer input. Though it’s definitely not on us as individuals to make sure this happens, we do a great service to the group by curbing that enthusiasm and leaving space for others who may be slower to jump in.
8. We need to create openings for those who have difficulty chiming in.
Speaking up is scary, gang. I can’t count the number of times I’d ruminate over an idea before I finally found the courage to say it aloud, only to fall back because someone spoke up a second earlier! Though most of us ignore this dynamic when it plays out, we can contribute to the conversation in a different way, by creating an opening for that person.
So next time it happens, you can say it: ‘I think ‘x’ had something to add.’ You broaden the conversation that way (and as a former ‘x’, we really appreciate it).
9. We must have better 👏 recap 👏 emails. 👏
I am often amazed at how many times I’ll sit in a meeting, absorb all the information, and swear that I’ll remember it all a week later. Spoiler alert: I don’t, and neither do the other guys.
If you’re leading a meeting, or the official note-taker, or a good Samaritan working in the name of productivity godliness…..send a recap email each time! And keep them short. A bulleted list of the highlights and next steps is all the rest of us really need. Don’t leave the details to the whims of human memory: she plays too many games.
When we’re feeling swamped, the last thing we need is to sit through another inefficient team meeting. So let’s do our part to make the time as productive as possible.