Who doesn’t love a good gathering of the team? When used effectively, team meetings, or staff meetings, can be a great way to build relationships, collaborate, share updates, and drive alignment across teams. The problem is teams are big, time is precious, and far too often the response to a problem is let’s get the team together to discuss.
Team meetings suffer a lot of the same issues as status update meetings - they’re very often overscheduled, not oriented around making decisions, and easily become duplicative across areas of the organization. And with the average professional attending 25.6 meetings a week, or over 21 hours in meetings, and averaging only 2.24 hours a day on productive task work, it’s clear that meetings are overwhelming the workweek and organizations have to get their meeting load back in check.
In this post, find out the top 6 best practices for scheduling and organizing productive team meetings, and the most common types of team meetings across a busy organization.
6 best practices for team meetings
So what makes an effective team meeting? In order to justify taking time away from your teams busy schedule to meet, your team meetings should pass all of these best practice criteria:
- Make decisions in these meetings: The number one checkpoint for every single meeting is if it is oriented around decisions. Each team meeting you schedule should have a real purpose with clear objectives that requires getting people together to discuss. If the end result isn’t going to be actionable takeaways that move your projects and priorities forward, you don't need to have the meeting.
- Limit attendance: If you’re on the invite list, you should have a part to play in this meeting. Anyone who is not essential to the conversation should be spared from the meeting. The larger the group, the harder it is to have a productive discussion, so keep the attendee list small to improve the effectiveness of the meeting, and allow the people left off to make better use of that time. Don’t worry about leaving them out, they don’t want to be stuck in a meeting that’s unrelated to their actual work, and is probably going to keep them late playing catch up.
- Always use an agenda: With team meetings being the largest gatherings you’ll find at your company, this makes it all the more important to set an agenda so these meetings don’t run off the rails. Each team meeting should have a dedicated person who creates the agenda, gathers agenda items from contributors, asks the team for input, and distributes it to attendees so everyone knows what to expect and prepare for the meeting. A great agenda will include links to any reports or documents, with detailed communication around what needs to be reviewed before the meeting.
- Prepare for your part: There’s nothing worse than making the time for a meeting to find that half the group is unprepared. Make time to review the agenda as soon as it’s distributed so you know what your involvement is, and how much preparation is needed before the meeting. If you have trouble finding time to prepare for the meeting, schedule yourself some focus time to make it a priority on your calendar.
- Share status reports before the meeting: Team meetings should be dedicated towards collaborating, not sharing status reports. This is a great opportunity to leverage written status reports that key participants can complete and distribute beforehand so everyone can review these updates on their own time. This small change can dramatically cut down on the length of these team meetings, or even replace quite a few of them! With everyone up to speed beforehand, you can dive right into discussion and keep your meetings aligned to making real strategic decisions.
- Change them from recurring to as needed: The other big consideration is how often are these team meetings scheduled. If they don’t absolutely have to be recurring, which few actually do, then remove them from the calendar and schedule only as needed. A good indicator is how often are these meetings rescheduled and cancelled? If you end up pushing this meeting off or frequently cancelling due to a lack of agenda items, or just higher priority projects that need the team's attention, they’re probably set too frequently. Even if you have a light agenda, ask yourself, can this meeting be an email?
5 types of team meetings
What are the different types of team or staff meetings? Turns out, 89% of people attend one each week, but depending on your role, you may have quite a few eating up time on your calendar. Here are the most common types of team meetings to look for across your workplace schedule:
Team / staff meeting
These meetings are used to share updates across the team and make sure everyone is aligned on the tasks and issues you’re prioritizing this week. The team lead will facilitate the meeting, distribute work across the team, uncover any blockers that need to be cleared, and share any special presentations that need to be made to the group. Team meetings are almost always recurring, and often run long as large group discussions are easily sidetracked. You’ll find all, or most, members of the team, the team leader, and program managers or operations personnel at a team meeting.
Cross-functional team meeting
This meeting is really an attempt to ensure cross-functional alignment, usually as a reaction to a single incident, which results in a recurring meeting to ensure two groups are talking. Cross-functional team meetings are used to resolve disagreements, increase awareness across groups, share updates or special presentations, and when used properly, to make decisions. While well-intended, these meetings easily become duplicative, overlapping discussions and topics with other meetings where both groups are present, so they’re most often better scheduled as needed than on a recurring basis. You’ll find leaders from the cross-functional groups, the program managers or operations personnel, and an occasional guest star at these meetings.
Executive / leadership team meeting
Also known as the HIPPO meeting (highest paid person’s opinion) these meetings are scheduled for the top leaders to make urgent, high-impact decisions on discussions that escalate up the chain of command. The executive or leadership team meets to review key metrics or special presentations, analyze execution issues, and discuss and determine the strategy to move forward with. Attended by SVP and GVP leaders across multiple functions, though one of the most important participants is actually the program manager or operations personnel who are present. It’s their job to share honest insight and context around what’s happening on the ground floor, and how these decisions will impact the project and team.
Skip-level team meeting
This meeting is organized to get a department together for a general sort of discussion. Often used to support team building, increase awareness around company initiative, or to share updates or special presentations, skip-level team meetings are also used to discuss strategy and resourcing across the various levels within a department. You’ll find all members of the functional department, the program manager or operations personnel, and an occasional guest star present at these meetings.
The big company meeting organized to share business updates, special presentations, and foster team building across the entire company. The presentation is generally led by senior leaders, followed by an interactive Q&A open to all employees. Depending on the size of your company, and if everyone is remote, this Q&A may be moderated and facilitated via online question submissions vs. the traditional hand-raising format. The larger the company, the less interactive the Q&A tends to be, but leaders should do their best to reserve as much Q&A time as possible so employees are offered an adequate amount of time to voice their questions and concerns.
And that’s the lowdown on team meetings! When used correctly, and only as needed, they can foster amazing discussions and generate real impactful decisions for the business. They can also cost you millions of dollars in lost productivity, and result in higher rates of burnout, so if you still have recurring team meetings on your calendar, take the time to review if they’re really necessary. If you're curious to see how much time you really spend in meetings every week, check out the free smart calendar tool for Google Calendar, Reclaim.ai, to see your calendar productivity stats and weekly report on your time management trends.
If you want to learn more about optimizing your meetings, check out this Smarter 1:1 Meetings blog post, and stay tuned for upcoming posts on brainstorming meetings and ideation sessions, operational reviews and staff meetings, and external meetings at busy organizations.