Updated: May 28
Let's take a look at why you are probably looking at (and doing) meetings all wrong, and the positive things that you are missing out on as a leader because of it.
Weekly One on One Meetings
Let's start with the idea of weekly one on one meetings. Not only does it grow your team culture one person at a time, but it gives you a place to train your people about true urgency - which greatly reduces them interrupting you throughout the week. Which means they also spend more time doing their work. How does it do all of this? The weekly one on one meeting gives them a repository to store the non-urgent things that they need to chat with you about.
“Ioannis, I don’t have time for weekly one on one meetings.”
Are you sure about that? For most leaders, if they were to tally the amount of time that interruptions take up (and don’t forget to include all the collateral damage interruptions take to your day and head space), for most leaders, doing weekly one on one meetings would save them a lot of time and stress!
“Interruption collateral damage? What is that?”
Interruption Collateral Damage
Interruption collateral damage is one of the leading causes of you getting to the end of your day exhausted from working so hard, and yet feeling that you have accomplished so little.
Collateral damage is the unintended damage that happens to people, places, and things that are near to an intended (attack) target. Interruption collateral damage is the unintended damage that happens to you when you are interrupted.
"Ioannis, that is not a thing... is it?"
The person who is interrupting you "real quick" knows that they are taking at least 15 - 30 minutes of your time directly. But what they (and probably you) don't realize is the high level of collateral damage to your work, time, day, etc., that an interruption can cause.
Again, Interruption collateral damage is one of the leading causes of you getting to the end of your day exhausted from working so hard, and yet feeling that you have accomplished so little.
It is also a major culprit in after-hours work.
So, what are examples of interruption collateral damage? Here is one (and I will post the others in subsequent posts):
Flow or momentum break - humans are momentum and flow beings. We get into a groove, into a flow and achieve when the momentum of something helps carry us to the desired outcome. This isn't some philosophical thing… I will show you some real-world examples. Losing momentum in writing can be called writer's block. Marketers want their ad to go viral. Something going viral is literally that thing garnering unstoppable positive momentum and market traction. In sports, coaches will call a time out to try and reset the momentum flow. In fact, doing something to change momentum is a huge piece of coaching within professional sports, and is a huge piece of leadership as well. Interruptions KILL momentum and flow, and sometimes that momentum just doesn't come back (that is why coaches will call those time outs). We can all think of things in life we don't ever want to be interrupted, and yet we over-tolerate interruptions (and even welcome them) at work. We yell and scream on Sunday that the coach should have called a key time out to break momentum of the other team, but then even welcome it at work!
Now it is your problem - When you have a meeting with a team member, you will sometimes end with having added tasks to your plate or even a problem being transferred to you. This is to be expected. In fact, many leaders will have the weekly meetings early in the week so that they have the fullness of the week to integrate the fixing of that problem smoothly into their schedule. But, that interruption will often leave a leader with unexpected problems for that leader to handle. And do you know what lost leaders do with unexpected problems? They immediately focus on them to clear them out of the way, so that they can get back to what they are slotted to work on. And now, the leader's day or even week is shot, even if they don’t yet realize it.
Prep work - as a leader, you can know a tougher week is coming and prepare accordingly for it. Or, you may not have thought it was going to be a tough week until you finished your one-on-one meetings early in the week, but now you see it and can plan for it - especially so that it gets wrapped up by the end of the week. So many leaders work on the weekends because, though they properly prepared for the coming week, no one can properly prepare for the interruptions that they are allotting.
Mental shift - this is probably the quietest and most damaging of the interruption collateral damages. As a leader, you can know a tougher week is coming and prepare accordingly for it mentally. But when your team has been given the ability by you to constantly suck you into relatively minor difficulties, without any warning (and no, in most roles it doesn’t NEED to be like this), then your people get to mentally release that problem to you. In fact, their perceived and sometimes false urgency reduces your ability and timeline to properly identify the problem and handle it calmly. So, why do they do it? Because now it is YOUR problem, and they can make the mental shift back to happy simplicity, because you are now making the mental shift of solving the problem. And work for you can quickly become an accumulation of problems, that no one else around you seem to carry. Your brain is in a constant stress mode when you engage with work. Many leaders don’t even realize the mental shift detriment anymore, because it is so “normal” now. That type of stress is collateral damage that runs deeper than I have time to talk through.
Making the weekly meeting the repository for non-urgent problems solves all of these. The problem stays with them longer than they want, and many times, it gets resolved before ever coming to you. So many leaders needlessly "handle" problems.
Look, I am not saying that you can or even should have zero interruptions during the week. Some things require your immediate attention. What I have found is that most things do not, but keep getting dumped on you because you allow it.
“Ioannis, a simple 30-minute weekly one on one meeting can greatly reduce all of this? It’s that simple?”
Oh, and if you aren’t doing a weekly team meeting, your culture is suffering. I will cover that next.
Weekly Team Meeting
Team culture is built (or destroyed) in the regular (usually weekly) team meeting.
I kind of feel like I should stop talking with that one sentence. Maybe you should just stop reading right now.
If you haven't received it by now, this is a post about saving time through meetings. I know, the idea is counterculture right now… but that is because people often don’t lead meetings very well.
Bad meetings create bad culture. No meetings create no culture. Good meetings create new culture.
I probably should stop with that last sentence. Maybe you should stop reading right now.
The problem is that sometimes the power of simple truth can be lost in its simplicity. Look, culture isn’t built in what you write in your employee handbook. I bet you don’t even remember what is in there.
But culture is what you put into their hearts and then comes out when you are not around. And you can only instill into their hearts what you live out before them, in relational proximity to them.
Meetings should be a pinnacle of this mountain range. Any time that you get your people together, you give yourself the ability to affect and change culture in addition to accomplishing the other business/tasks at hand. This is because you created a forum for them to regularly experience what you want your clients/people/etc. to experience.
So, what makes a great team meeting? Good question. I will cover that below.
ELEMENTS OF A GOOD MEETING
Start on time - this shows respect and respect builds great culture.
Have a good purpose - if you can’t meet with a purpose, your people won’t work with a purpose. If you don’t have a purpose to meet weekly, your ministry/business/organization is in trouble for so many reasons.
Have a good agenda - an agenda is just a list of all of the purposes of the meeting. Don’t make it complicated, but make sure it directly addresses the purpose of the meeting.
Don't get sidetracked - getting sidetracked subverts both the agenda and the purpose for the meeting, and makes the meeting a waste... which causes people to hate meetings. If more conversation needs to be had about a topic, than plan a meeting with the right people specifically to address that topic.
Have food - not only does eating together ALWAYS build culture, but it causes people to not be sidetracked with being hungry.
Encourage healthy drama - drama is a problem with a storyline. Most people don’t read a book that doesn’t have a problem with a storyline, unless they are reading a manual. Most people don’t want to read a manual. Healthy drama engages people on multiple levels. Resolving healthy drama as a team binds a team deeply together.
Have discussion - a meeting where one person presents is a not a meeting… it is a presentation. Don’t do weekly presentations unless you are a TV show. People want a seat at the decision-making table and their evidence that they have it is a time for their voice to be heard.
Give your team a seat at the decision-making table - it shouldn’t be all decisions that your team is involved in making, but it also shouldn't be no decisions (and I am talking about real decisions). If you are new at this, start with decisions that you don’t really care about the outcome.
Give Homework - if your team gets the seat at the decision-making table that they long for, they are often very willing to work to keep that seat. If you do this correctly, you have set-up an environment where your team will welcome you delegating tasks to them (which means delegating tasks AWAY from you). You also have a built-in deadline - one of the upcoming meetings. If you have a meeting where tasks don't surface, you aren't doing it right. If you don't know ahead of time what some of the tasks are that will surface, you aren't doing it right. If you aren't adding things into the agenda so that you can delegate tasks in a natural flow and rhythm, you aren't doing it right. Give homework.
End the meeting on time - this is also respect and helps your people focus all the way through.
In case you missed it, delegating is part of great meetings. In fact, great meetings are one of the best tools that a leader has for moving tasks off of their plate and onto the plate of their team.
Here is a time saving trick: if you just can't emotionally pull away from allowing interruptions, then at least use great meetings to delegate your schedule to an availability that reduces the interruption collateral damage - because you plan for the interruptions to come and the time that they truly take.
Here is another meeting tip: Use the one-on-one meeting to check the progress of the delegated work ahead of the team meeting. This will open up huge doors to mentor, train, coach, build-up, and improve that team member, which will drive intense culture within your team as whole. It also helps you to quantify who is doing the work and who isn't.
Why do ALL of these things?
Because only then are you actually leading the team, and doing so in a way that is repeatable and sustainable!