Enjoy The Team Meetings?

Do you work with other employees in a setting where team meetings are the norm? If you do, have you thought about their purpose and checked to see with the other participants if their understanding is similar or differs from your own?

Like many things in the workplace, you can often determine how someone weights the relevance of team meetings by the look on their face when they learn one is called. I’ve never worked with anyone who gleefully started clapping their hands and burst into chants of, “Yippee!” upon hearing of one being called. However, I have worked with people who did look forward to them and conversely those who did not.

Team meetings are very useful when attempting to pass on new information to the group as a whole; when Management wants to make sure that everyone hears an announcement simultaneously and it’s a good way to check on everyone’s comprehension of the message should clarification be needed by one or more people. Getting group buy-in is another important reason for meeting, where an entire group of people are told they will be counted on to make a unified change in procedures and practices.

A group meeting also provides employees who work together the opportunity to raise issues or problems that impede their ability to work at their best. Sometimes those issues center on external pressures such as a service delivery team needing more support from their IT staff and meeting together to voice their frustrations so they can make a list of items needed to present to their IT personnel afterward.

It can also be that a problem or issue is in-house where not everyone is pulling in the same direction and whether out of defiance or ignorance, one or more members of the team isn’t apparently on board with something previously agreed upon. While it’s not the place for ganging up on someone you have to work with later, it could be that a discussion of procedures brings to light different understandings of how some members on the team are conducting business. Perhaps a team airing of an issue is all it takes to inform and clarify bringing about that necessary change.

Closed door team meetings are also good brain-storming and strategy sharing forums. With some advanced notice of an item under discussion, people can think independently and then share those thoughts openly with their peers. Such get-togethers can energize the team, give people new ideas to mull over, see other team members in ways they previously didn’t. Someone might volunteer a thought or contribute an idea that no one else knew them capable of; and it just might be that the idea sparks new thought processes in other team members, and the group comes up with a better idea than any one person would have arrived at on their own.

Guest speakers that address a team are another thing some Managers do to infuse some change into the team meeting. The presence of someone outside the team might be a chance for the team to learn something new from another community member. It is often preferable that the guest not attend the entire meeting as the team may have other issues they want to discuss being more of a private nature, and this also respects the time of the guest.

Confrontation among group members is normal in some work environments at team meetings, and in other work environments team meetings is definitely not the place to call someone out who has a differing view or isn’t moving in the same direction as the ret of the team members. Ensuring that all group members understand and follow whatever the protocols are in your workplace is necessary and strongly advisable. When someone joins the team from outside the organization, people shouldn’t assume that the new team member knows the rules for engagement of the new place. They may have come from a very different environment.

Some staff don’t look forward to team meetings. Could be they view them as time taken away from the real work they have to get done. When someone else brings up a point or contributes an idea, they might roll their eyes, give a knowing look to another employee and show exasperation because as a seasoned worker they know that idea is flawed. Some staff also withdraw, sitting silently at team meetings not wanting to contribute much but just listening, while others monopolize the discussion, always have something to add or contribute.

A good practice much of the time is to ask those needing to attend if they have any items they feel appropriate to raise at the meeting, and then to share the agenda with people so they can see in advance what is planning on being discussed. If any items require presentations, data or information be brought along, members need to similarly be advised in order to come prepared at their best.

Meetings which are not helpful are the ones which are called for no other reason than to get together. There may be no agenda items of real importance, and the meeting is called in order to say a meeting took place. Meeting for the sake of meeting can have benefits, but a loose agenda with nothing to really meet and discuss can do more damage than good.

Get onboard and be positive about sitting down with your team members.




Our Responsibility When Meeting Clients

Yesterday I wrote a piece encouraging anyone who is a client to make the very most of the meetings they have with others who are in a position to help. In short, the message was one pleading for clients to make the very most of those opportunities.

So it now makes sense to turn to the role you and I play if you are one of those who host those meetings. As professionals meeting with clients, there is an inherent risk we run in sliding into poor habits due to the many we serve. So let’s look at the part we play and how we might go about those face-to-face encounters.

First of all, it’s usually we who drive the meeting isn’t it? I mean we might have requirements to meet with clients within designated timeframes. Whether it’s to update a file, satisfy some legislative or company requirement, we send out letters or make phone calls so we can ‘update the file’. What we should never forget or take for granted however is that, ‘the file’ exists because there is a person or people the file represents.

When we drive the agenda we might have the same pre-set questions ready at our disposal in order to garner the information required so we can update the electronic field in the computer software. We may have a template which designed to ensure we don’t forget or miss something, and this data collection allows the organization to then fulfill its requirements. On that front, it makes sense and all is good.

However, that person sitting in front of us is a unique individual. We may be tempted to evaluate them as similar or exactly the same as any number of other clients we have, but that one person has a unique background that has brought them to sit before us today. So whether it’s employment counselling, marital or grief counselling, financial advice, real estate transactions or any other kind of 1:1 meeting, that person is unique and worthy of being treated with respect and dignity.

So how to best show respect and dignity then is the question. It starts I believe in seeing this meeting as a two-way exchange; a conversation. Aside from our own agenda, shouldn’t we ask what’s on their mind? Is there anything they’d like to ask, share or clarify? Recognizing the other person has their own issues and needs and then paying attention and actively listening to them makes investing in the meeting and its outcome worthwhile.

Now I personally know of some people who are exceptionally good and unfortunately others who are exceptionally poor at hosting productive, meaningful meetings. The worst is the person who has all the forms pre-filled for the client to sign before even getting the clients input, sees the client as an intrusion in their day, and ushers them in and back out as quick as possible in order to join their teammates on an extended break.

Now ironically, some clients would love this kind of meeting. In and out quickly, not needing to be hauled back in (as they see it) for months, and by signing the forms they continue to benefit in some way without any real inconvenience to their daily life. I’ve met with such clients whose files I’d assumed in the past, and the first thing they found odd but good was that I actually sat there and talked with them instead of to them. They were initially suspicious, thinking I was pretending to care in order to find something to seize on. How relieved they were to find I used what they shared to suggest action plans that would help them. But isn’t that our job?

I’ve seen some really fabulous examples of conducting productive meetings too. Even now in my present job, I’ve got co-workers, (some I can overhear as they meet) who really invest themselves in the well-being of the client. The meetings are not rushed, the client is given 100% of the person’s attention, and the dialogue flows back and forth instead of one-way only. When the client leaves, they more often than not follow through with the plans agreed on, as there is more ownership and buy-in to a shared plan versus a plan they didn’t help develop being thrust on them.

So I believe that you – and I – need every now and then to remind ourselves that the people we see and assist are not only entitled to our full attention and our respect, but if it must be said, they are the very reason we even have the jobs we love in the first place.

For me personally, I imagine myself in their position, (as best I can) and try to give the service to them I’d want and hope for were I in their chair. That client might not even know what they should ask, or what funds or programs they might be eligible for. That’s my job – your job – to empower them with information and support which they can use to propel themselves forward.

Sometimes just listening to a person talk who senses they can trust you reveals all kinds of information which is then extremely helpful in addressing barriers and challenges.

It’s a great privilege to serve others, especially when we have the knowledge and the ability to do so. I applaud you if you are in such a position and thank you for doing so!