Team meetings should be like a family Sunday lunch, an opportunity for ‘the family’ to come together, talk about the week gone and what lies ahead, share opinions and ideas and generally take time out from the day-to-day for some good old social conversation. However, just like family mealtimes, team meetings can become stale and formulaic after a while. So how can we make team meetings a time for exploration, creativity, interaction and relationship building? Here are some suggestions:
Go somewhere different. First of all, break the monotony of repetition by occasionally switching the location to somewhere different, ideally somewhere completely different like outside on the grass, at a local cafe or in another part of your organisation where the sights, sounds, smells (!) and stimuli are different. Not every week, just every now and again.
Rotate the chair. Just like changing the chef for Sunday lunch, give control of the meeting, agenda and format to different members of the team and let them do it their way. Let them invite who they want and raise the topics they feel are relevant but make sure they know the rules – it must be inclusive, interactive and creative.
Invite a stranger. In some cultures it’s commonplace to invite a stranger into your home for mealtimes. As dramatist W S Gilbert once said: “It’s not what’s on the table that counts, it’s what’s on the chairs”. Inject some new perspectives into your meeting by inviting a colleague from a different part of the organisation, or someone from outside who might just bring some new ideas and stimulating conversation. If you can’t think of anyone, invite me (seriously).
Have a ‘thought board.’ Both before, during and after your meetings, have a ‘place’ where team members can record ideas, topics and issues they’d like to discuss. Ideally, make it visible and creative, like a white board in the office or a graffiti space. Make it come alive, like a communal collaboration space and just use the physical team meeting as a time to reflect on what’s been raised.
Story time. Invite one or more team members to tell a story. It could be about anything, as long as it’s creative and interesting. It could be a story about what they did at the weekend or an experience they had at work. But do it properly – set time in the agenda for stories and set some ground rules about time and interaction. Use the stories to find out about each other, stimulate conversation and explore opportunities to use the learnings in the workplace.
Any Ideas? Set time aside for problem solving and innovation. Have a ‘problem of the week’ you want to solve in your team meeting. Use the time for a mini-ideation session like a brainstorm or creative exercise. Again, set the rules and use the idea time to build your team’s creative capability. Over time, you’ll find you’ll start to get really good at positive problem solving.
Praise be. Of course, just like mealtimes, team meetings should be a time of recognition, praise and encouragement. Ask every member of the team to say what’s made them happy at work this last week/month. Allow them to explain why they felt good about something they did or something that happened. Inject some belief and spirit into the team by focusing on what’s gone well.
Spring some surprises. Every now and again, do something completely different without warning. Throw out the normal agenda and devote the whole meeting to one topic. Bring some flipcharts in and ask everyone to ‘draw their week’ in ten minutes (now words allowed). Move all the chairs to face completely the opposite way to normal. Bring sweets or cakes. Play a game. Have music playing in the background. Just make it creative. Don’t be repetitive, don’t be shy and don’t be unoriginal.