The Power of Team Meetings

Bernadette Glass
on Apr 02, 2015

This morning I met with a group of team leaders and the topic of team meetings was raised. We love or loathe team meetings, find them boring or stimulating or just a waste of the time we could be spending on something more productive, like catching up on our notes or the other million jobs waiting in the wings or on the our ever-growing ‘to do’ list. 

My question is, what makes this so?

This morning’s conversation prompted me to reflect on the culture of teams and how we engage with the purpose of our work and or treat each other when we come together. 

Many teams do not function so well. In these team meetings we may see:
• Lack of connection to the team’s purpose
• Lack of respect for others 
• Language of blame 
• Meetings always starting late 
• People talking over the top of each other and constant interruptions 
• Negative body language ~ rolling of the eyes or silent protests 
• Focus on individual opinions, not team.

Team meetings that are allowed to descend into disregard for others and lack of focus are no fun, however the greater concern is the lack of RESPONSIBILITY, of each person, including the team leader.
These teams are not held to account with regards to the team’s purpose. Disrespectful relationships with a bullying undercurrent are unacceptable and often reflect what is happening in the client population. Meetings drag and the gathering can simply be another opportunity to whine and moan about what is not working or not suitable. They can be a forum to focus on individual pursuits, rather than the team responsibility for the provision of the service.’ 

If we stay focussed on our individual pursuits and interests then we never leave that space to feel the potential of the team.

How could it work?

Gathering as a team can be an opportunity to:
• Participate in discussions and debates about the service or program 
• Offer support to others 
• Raise important issues affecting the team, individuals or the service quality 
• Get together with colleagues 
• Share our experiences
• Exchange information 
• Have some fun

Team meetings can create a sense of belonging and we can feel the power of the collective work that is being done by the team to support clients. If these elements are happening then we are most likely in a well functioning team where there is engagement and active participation in the business or operational side of the service as well. After all, our teams are charged with the job of providing a quality service in our communities. Meeting others in equality and understanding whilst at the same time expressing respectfully what is to be said, is a much more powerful way to engage and begin to regain a focus for the team and to dissolve defensiveness than to attack, avoid or undermine another.

Let’s review the part WE play in the quality and health of our team.

WE matter and WE make a difference.

Let us know your experiences of team meetings by commenting on the blog.

9 comments on "The Power of Team Meetings"

Submitted by Kath - Team Lea... on Mon, 04/05/2015 - 20:40

Great article and reminder thanks Bernadette. Having team meetings shift from a culture of loathe to love takes a lot of focus and clear intention but is so worth the investment. We now start our fortnightly team meetings with a 5 minute warm up which we all take in turns to do. Activities have ranged from relaxation, "if a movie were made about me, what film star would play the lead role?" round table discussion to blind fold food tasting! Everyone puts thought into it and the respect shown to all is palpable. We have fun and connect well with each other at the beginning of our meetings. As a consequence agenda items flow, everyone contributes and supports each other and we usually start the meetings on time!

Submitted by Bernadette Glass on Tue, 05/05/2015 - 06:06

Kath, you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned 'connection'. Being seen and connected with reminds us that we 'matter' and that our contribution is vital to the health and wellbeing of ourselves and our team. This wellbeing naturally flows to our clients, it cannot, not do so! It is important also to appreciate the leadership of the team for without connected leaders, the team fails to be inspiring. Your team certainly sounds connected and inspiring!

Submitted by Shirl Scott on Tue, 05/05/2015 - 09:34

Thanks Bernadette for presenting such clear and informative information about "The Power of Team Meetings". As you have said it is so important that each team member take responsibility for their behaviour, contribution and participate in meetings. Each and every team member, equally, absolutely matters and makes a difference. I loved the example Kath gave to practically empower and involve all team members Great job Bernadette and Kath.

Submitted by Bernadette Glass on Tue, 05/05/2015 - 20:20

Thank you Shirl, responsibility is key and yet we often do not realise how important our contribution is. We are usually employed due to our ability to respond to what is required in our role. We can lose our awareness that we absolutely matter as you have said.

Submitted by Karen on Tue, 05/05/2015 - 18:28

A few years ago our team meetings were poorly attended, with staff preferring to prioritise other tasks. We had a consultant come in and spend a day talking with us about team meetings. At the time we thought a whole day seemed like an incredible waste of time! However, a few years on we actually enjoy our team meetings and attendance is high. A few of the things we implemented include: rotating roles (for example chairing, creating the agenda, keeping minutes, etc -tasks all shared on a rotating basis). There is someone rostered each meeting to provide hospitality, and we spend a few minutes at the start of each meeting doing what we call "rounds". This could be simply going around the group and each person stating their favorite ice cream flavour! It is just a way of us getting to know each other a little better and valuing each person as a person, making the team meeting enjoyable as well as serving business functions. Hope this may help another team out there somewhere! Cheers!

Submitted by Victoria Lister... on Wed, 13/05/2015 - 19:32

Great ideas Karen. I've used rotating roles too and it works well. I love your suggestion re the 'rounds' – getting to know each other is key to connecting and understanding each other as people first... and not just the work colleague we see every day.

Submitted by Bernadette Glass on Tue, 05/05/2015 - 20:23

Thank you Karen, I love hearing about teams 'turning around' their culture. It takes work and consistency. Building in routines and rhythms certainly assists and having some fun lightens things too. Every little interaction matters.

Submitted by Victoria Lister... on Wed, 13/05/2015 - 19:29

Bernadette, you hit the nail on the head with your article. I come across this issue all the time in my work with nonprofits, especially with regard to board meetings. For the most part, humanity is not good at group work, which makes community-based governance extremely challenging. On the other hand, I've seen groups that can and do work together really well. What makes them so is their commitment to making it about harmony and purpose first and foremost, and never about personal agendas or politics. Keeping self out of the equation is the answer!

Submitted by Bernadette Glass on Thu, 14/05/2015 - 09:16

Yes Victoria, you have taken teams to a grander level, however we are a microcosm of humanity and our ability to be present to the purpose, not our own agenda is key as you say. We can also have fun and appreciate each other more when we know that we are on the same 'purpose page'!

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