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Making Team Meetings More Effective

April 24, 2009 by Jill Geddes, Partner, Trillium Teams Inc

How would you rate your regular team meeting? Informative, an effective and productive use of your time, a positive way to share information and get instant feedback on relevant issues? Or as a social gathering that does not accomplish much, a constant communication battle and waste of time. When was the last time you really thought about the purpose of why you meet? We have all experienced more than our share of both good and bad meetings. How can your team meeting be more effective?

How Meetings Can Affect Team Success

A lot can be said about a team simply from evaluating their weekly team meeting. After working with many teams, our experience is that most of the team challenges can be told from assessing the team meeting. The outlook everyone has when they arrive at, and leave a team meeting is a good indicator of how the team is functioning as a unit. If people feel that meetings are well run, productive, and a good use of their time, they are most likely operating well as a team. If people are attending meetings with dread, feel that their time is being wasted, most topics do not pertain to the whole team or that too much time is wasted trying discussing silly decisions, the team needs some help working to create a more cohesive unit.

Properly conducted and engaging meetings make teams function more efficiently. If you feel that your team meetings have gotten too far off track to even know where to begin, it can help to have a third party vendor reset team norms to get you working more productively.

The Benefits of Team Meetings

Is it even important that teams meet on a regular basis? Yes, definitely. Meetings are important for more reasons than just getting the job done. They provide regular communication among team members to align everyone on a common understanding of team activities and needs. They provide an opportunity for group innovation and creative brainstorming. They also help develop work skills, deepen interpersonal relationships, and boost team morale.

When meetings are perceived as nonproductive by the team, they have a negative impact which extends beyond the actual meeting into everyday work. When team meetings are lacking focus and perceived as a waste of time, this negative impression carries over into team dynamics and a loss of confidence in the team.

Tips for Making Team Meetings More Effective

Everyone has suffered through far too many meetings that have taken up far too much time and accomplished far too little. Unfortunately, this sad state of affairs has happened so often that you may find yourself becoming numb to the fact that your meetings aren't what they should and could be; if you just had some way to fix them.

Other than the obvious points about starting on time, being prepared, and ensuring the whole team is involved, here is a list of other things to help you improve your regular team meetings.

Maintain focus.

Why is the team meeting? Are you meeting only because you think that is what teams do? Or is there a clear focus as to why you are meeting? Is each person reporting on what they have done that week and is that important to the team? This format can be an easy target for getting meetings off track and interrupted. Often teams say that this style is a waste of their time. Team members are looking to these weekly team meetings for several reasons. Ask your team what they want to see in your weekly meeting. Ask the group, what the team needs to Start Doing, Stop doing, and Continue Doing in the weekly meetings. Empower the team to come up with what they think the weekly team meeting should look like.

Less is more.

Often teams meet several times a week either as an entire group or as subgroups to discuss the same issues and concerns. Have fewer, but better meetings with your team. Can issues or goals be addressed by having one-on-one conversations, a telephone call, or an email exchange? Meet less often and improve the quality of your meetings.

The agenda.

An agenda can play a critical role in the success of any meeting. Many meetings play multiple meeting functions. Agenda item #1 may simply be an informational briefing, while item #2 is a decision-making item, and item #3 is a problem-solving item. Your agenda needs to clearly specify what kind of item it is. This tells people; Here is what we expect from you during this agenda item. When this is not clear, people may engage in dysfunctional behaviour even when trying very hard to be a good team player because they do not understand what they are being asked to do. Be sure to distribute the agenda in advance to allow participants to prepare for the meeting ahead of time.

Facilitating versus Chairing.

When hosting a team meeting, decide whether you are chairing or facilitating the meeting and discuss that distinction. A very common role arrangement is to have the meeting leader use a chair approach to start the meeting, deal with the agenda, housekeeping and information sharing portion of the session then switch to facilitative approach to get feedback from the group, problem solve or make decisions.

Be action oriented.

When action items arise from the team meeting discussion, assign them immediately. Select an individual, a priority level and a due date for the action item. Immediately after the meeting, summarize the outcome of the meeting in a quick email, as well as assignments and timelines, and send a copy of this summary to the team. Time requirement is only 10 minutes, but having a written confirmation of the verbal can make all the difference.

Get feedback.

All team meetings have room for improvement. Check in with your team on a quarterly basis on the status of your meetings. You can use a simple evaluation email form to solicit feedback, have an open discussion as a team, or simply speak informally with your team after the meeting to get their input. Some suggested questions are:

  • Do you feel that our weekly team meetings are productive?
  • What would you like me to be doing that I am not?
  • What has to happen for you to rate our team meetings a 10?
  • What do you think we need to start, stop and continue doing?
If meetings are poorly run and do not produce results, team members may lose interest in their team and their work together. By making a concerted effort to make your team meetings more effective, not only will you get more done as a team, but you will also find that your team will operate better as a unit on a day-to-day basis as well.

Team Building Best Practices

April 1, 2009 by Jill Geddes, Partner, Trillium Teams Inc

A popular buzzword phrase these days is best practices. We often have people inquire what are the best practices for team building? Before I start to answer that question, I first want to define what I mean by team building best practices. It refers to the winning strategies and practical processes that produce high performing teams.

What Are Team Building Best Practices?

The following is a list of the top five best practices, according to Trillium Teams, for an organization to consider when hosting a business related team building event.

  1. Integrating a New Manager
  2. Addressing Communication Challenges
  3. Increasing Team Visibility
  4. Building a Team Charter
  5. Helping Teams Make Decisions

Integrating a New Manager

It is natural and expected for employees to have mixed feelings about a new manager joining the team. Expectations range from enthusiasm for new knowledge and expertise, to hesitation about change and proving oneself again. There is also the question of fit, and the time it takes in getting to know the work and communication style pf teammates to be able to really function as a productive team.

Within the first two weeks on the job is the ideal time to hold a business-results focused team building workshop. We recommend to new managers that they reserve at least a half day, preferably a full day, to allow the team to get started off on the right foot, set expectations and establish a way of dealing with issues before they arise. The focus should be on clarifying roles and responsibilities, discussing the purpose and process of team meetings, agreeing on team norms, and getting a better sense of the different styles on the team.

Addressing Communication Challenges

One of the most common team challenges is communication. Sometimes an entire team has problems communicating, but quite often it can be between one or two people, which can then throw off the balance of the team. With the merging of individuals working together, it is natural to come up against communication challenges that hinder team progress.

To begin the process of solving communication challenges on a team requires asking difficult questions to understand the different perspectives, this is very difficult without the aid of an outside perspective. Frequently managers are taken aback to find out that the communication challenges from their assessment of the situation are quite different from those perceived by the team. In other cases, the manager has made an accurate assessment of the communication problems, but they are at a loss of how to begin to address them.

Walking the team through a proven process of identifying and addressing their challenges, can unveil the differences in work and communication styles and allow the team to discover practical solutions that will work for them.

Increasing Team Visibility

There are always the teams that work very well together and would not necessarily see themselves as having many challenges. Together they feel well-oiled, but they keep hearing from others within the organization what does your team even do? or we never hear a peep out of your team. These teams do not spend a lot of time promoting themselves to other departments across the organization and feel that they are at a disadvantage because of this.

A team can easily increase their visibility within their organization through a team building process. First, it starts by creating a vision together of how they would like others in their organization to view their team, and by when. After coming to a consensus on this the team can move towards a discussion on how and start to set a concrete plan in motion of how best to accomplish this.

Building a Team Charter

Many managers hear the term team chartert and believe that their team may benefit from this, but are not sure what is involved in the process, where to start or how to achieve this. First of all, a team charter is a document that articulates how a team will work together. The process of creating this document builds team spirit and enthusiasm for the team goals, enabling every member to see the bigger picture and suggest ways to apply it to their everyday work.

The charter also serves as a useful document to share with new team members, as well as other teams. This charter will make it easier for new team members to get up and running faster by explaining processes and communication team norms which are usually not written down and would take time to figure out. As for other teams in the organization, sharing a team charter will give a quick and easy overview of what a team does, who is responsible for what area and how the team operates. To find out more about building a team charter, please refer to the article Building A Team Charter.

Helping Teams Make Decisions

Everyone has strong convictions about how decisions should be made on their team. A team can make decisions in various ways, depending on what decision needs to be made, who is impacted, and the style of the manager. Some managers encourage a participative climate, where they support everyone to give their feedback and they ultimately make the final decision. Other managers prefer to make decisions through consensus building with the team. Others come to the team with the decision already set and allow for discussions with the end goal being to get everyone on the same page. Whatever the decision making process may be on your team, the question should be is everyone aware and in agreement with the process being used to make these decisions?


Team building best practices are the winning strategies and practical processes that produce high performing teams. Integrating team members to come together as an effective unit and finding practical solutions for their current work situation takes time and commitment from everyone involved. This process can certainly be simplified by implementing some of these principles with a neutral third party to help a team navigate through a best practice best suiting their needs.

Building a Team Charter

March 1, 2009 by Ruth Gmehlin, Partner, Trillium Teams Inc

As summer is drawing to a close and your team is gearing up for the fall, do you feel that everyone is working together as productively and effectively as possible? If not, then a Team Charter may be the answer to get everyone on the same page and moving forward with new enthusiasm and understanding.

What is a Team Charter?

Simply put, a Team Charter is a plan of how the team will work together; an agreement involving everyone to set values, achievable standards, and protocols for the team.

Why is a Team Charter important?

With everyone being involved in this critical activity, the team will change from one that relies on policy and job description to one that bases its actions on team work and values. The process of creating this document will build team spirit and enthusiasm for the team’s goals, enabling every member to see the bigger picture and suggest ways to apply it to their everyday work. The Team Charter can be the vital link between the vision of the organization and the daily work of getting things done.

The charter also serves as a useful document to share with new team members, as well as other teams. This charter will make it easier for new team members to get up and running faster by explaining processes and communication team norms which are usually not written down and would take time to figure out. As for other teams in the organization, sharing your charter will give a quick and easy overview of what your team does, who is responsible for what area and how the team operates. This sets a benchmark for others and decreases mis-communication and false expectations.

Team Charter Elements

Each Team Charter is unique and should be designed to meet the specific needs of your team. The creation of the document is an important process in helping to flush out and note down how the team operates. The process is not meant to be long and onerous, it should result in a practical and useful living document to be revisited on an as needed basis. As a general guideline here are some suggested elements to consider for building your Team Charter:

  • A Team Mission Statement describes the reason the team exists.
  • Team Values speak to team approach to doing business and treating others.
  • Team Goals defined on a quarterly and annual basis will allow the team to measure their performance and benchmark themselves towards constant improvement.
  • Team Norms and Communication set out an agreed upon plan for how the team will interact, make decisions, resolve conflict and relay information.
  • Team Scope defines what is within and outside the scope of the team.
  • Including a Team Org Chart will make it easy to see the layout of the team and understand how everyone fits together.
  • Defining the Roles, Responsibilities, and Strengths gives an overview of each team member’s contribution, unique skills and strengths.
  • Creating a list of fun Team Event ideas can serve as an easy reference to be used when appropriate. These events allow the team to build and strengthen their working relationships.

How to Create a Team Charter

As mentioned, each Team Charter is customized and specific to your team; therefore the process of how you create your Team Charter depends on the purpose. Here are some helpful tips and hints for you to consider:

1. Define the Purpose

First of all, it is important to define why your team is creating a Team Charter at this time. What purpose is should serve will determine which elements your charter needs to include in order to be a useful and relevant document within your organization. Clearly defining what the end result needs to look like will in part determine the process your team should use to get there will.

2. Use a Facilitator

It is recommended that the team uses a facilitator either to kick start this process or to walk the team through the creation of each charter element. The role of the facilitator is to act as a neutral third party and provide a framework and process for helping the team achieve its goals. The facilitator ensures effective team processes are used and that the relevant content is generated.

3. Expectations of Team Members

This is a team undertaking to empower and engage the team in working together more effectively. As such, the expectations are that the team will generate the content, attend and participate in all appropriate Team Charter meetings, establish and maintain the charter, and provide feedback to each other about any improvements and changes needed.

4. Timing

The creation of this document is an important and empowering process for a team to go through. We encourage teams to set aside one or two days per year to create the Team Charter. This will help them set the course for the year not only strategically, but also tactically. A Team Charter can give the team a set of concrete processes and goals, against which they can measure real progress.

Alternatively, this process can also be done in stages during team meetings over a specific time frame such as two months. The process of creating the Team Charter will motivate the team to integrate workplace principles with strategic goals.How to Create a Team Charter

The Process Can Be More Important Than the Outcome

The creation of a Team Charter can lead the team towards becoming a model for others within the organization and actively promote a new approach to working together as a team to affect real change. The process of creating this document, going through each element, for example setting team norms, will lead to more supportive communication and a conflict resolution process designed by, and specific to your team. This in turn leads to renewed team spirit and aspirations towards team goals, the hallmarks of what makes a high performing team.

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