Meetings have earned a bad rap with most of us, and with good reason. We attend way too many of them, they start late, they drag on and on, and it often turns out that much of the discussion didn’t apply to us anyway. Nevertheless, successful face-to-face meetings remain an important part of the healthy interaction between you and your coworkers, customers, vendors, and anyone who is critical to the success of your business.
Nowhere are face-to-face meetings more important than in the relationship between a manager and his or her team members. As comfortable as we’ve become communicating with each other by way of cell phones, pagers, e-mail, and even video conferences, there’s still no substitute for occasionally getting together in the same room for some real human interaction. If you manage people, you’ll get a handsome return on your time and effort with two particular kinds of meetings—the team meeting and the individual meeting.
The team meeting
You should meet with your team as a group on a regular basis, once each week if possible. This team meeting is a great opportunity for everyone to share information of general interest. New product lines, upcoming projects, company events, and other such topics that apply to everyone on the team belong on this agenda. Much of this information will come from you, but you should allow each member of the team to give a brief update on whatever is going on in his or her area. Be careful to limit each participant’s time to only two or three minutes, and consistently enforce those limits. Otherwise, your meeting will lose its pace and will quickly become one more boring slot on the schedule that everyone dreads. Spice up your team meeting by celebrating accomplishments. Emphasize team achievements from the past week and single out individuals for recognition. The team meeting builds camaraderie and keeps everyone plugged in to what’s going on.
Here’s a tip: Schedule your team meeting as soon as possible following your meeting with the upper management team. Your employees will appreciate learning the latest scoop from you as soon as it’s available, rather than hearing it in the lunchroom from another employee whose manager beat you to the punch.
Don’t forget those individual meetings
In addition to the team meeting, you should also meet regularly with each member of your team privately. Although you want your employees to feel free to come to you whenever they have an issue to discuss, it’s reassuring for them to know that you’ve set aside a block of time on your schedule just for them. During this meeting, you should let your employee take the lead in discussing anything he or she wants. With whatever time remains, you should then address the issues on your agenda.
The individual meeting is a great time to be positive and congratulate the employee on his or her accomplishments since your last meeting. You might want to repeat that praise at the next team meeting. The individual meeting is also the time to address problem areas that need to be improved. (Be sure you never address individual problem areas in the team meeting.) Take notes during your private discussion, and use these notes from meeting to meeting to provide continuity and to ensure accountability for goals set in previous meetings. These notes will also provide you with a wealth of information when it’s time to prepare a formal performance review for this employee.
Individual meetings will have the greatest impact if you give them a high priority. If you let your individual meetings become the expendable entries on your schedule that can be easily moved around, you’ll lose the goodwill that you’re trying to create. Ideally, you should try to spend thirty minutes each week with each of your employees. But, even if it’s only thirty minutes every other week—or even each month—you should create a regular schedule, and then stick to it.
All meetings should start on time, include the right people, stick to the agenda, and end on time. But when you manage people, none of your meetings are more important than your team meeting and your individual meetings with your team members. These two distinctly different meetings are critical components of your relationship with your team members, and part of the required activities of the outstanding manager.
Mark Kimbell is president of Kimbell Associates LLC, a training and consulting company. He is also the author of The Hod Carrier: Leadership Lessons Learned on a Ladder.