Last year, I was given an opportunity to review the data from research on meetings conducted by an online scheduling platform, Doodle. The report offered compelling data, and I’ll share (with permission) the findings behind three of the most common complaints about meetings that might lead you to adjust some of your meeting practices.
1. Busy professionals are more concerned about the quality of the meeting attendees than they are the meeting format because they felt that irrelevant attendees slowed progress.
Eight or fewer participants is preferred for meetings. Invite only those people required to accomplish what you have on the agenda. Find other ways to inform and engage people who are not necessary. Of course, people want to be included and often get value out of meetings. The point is to be deliberate about inviting rather than just letting your group size swell without being thoughtful about who needs to attend.
Management consultant Margaret Wheatley talks about small groups of people being able to make a big difference, and she uses the question, “What matters and who cares?” to help groups define their purpose. If you limit your meetings to discussions about what matters, your meetings will have more impact. If you invite only those most concerned, the conversations will be focused and productive. And you will also protect people’s time—making sure the investment value is high for those attending and giving those not needed in the meeting more time for individual work.
2. The following irritating behaviors detract from the efficiency of a meeting:
-taking phone calls or texts
-people who interrupt others
-people who don’t listen to others
-arriving late or leaving early
-people who talk about nothing for long periods of time
You have two primary ways of managing behavior. First, ensure that the top people and most respected members of the group role model the behavior you want. Identify these people, take them to coffee, and ask for their support in improving the experience of the meeting for everyone.
Second, spend a few minutes up front asking the group to be attentive and supportive of everyone who speaks.
Some meetings will benefit from establishing guidelines about technology, interrupting, and side conversations—anything that detracts from the meeting’s efficiency. Don’t have a long list of guidelines, just three or four that the group agrees would help.
You might use the graphic from Doodle below as an opening for your group to express what they would like to be true about meetings that isn’t true now.
The Doodle Meeting Report 2019,
created by online scheduling platform Doodle through research with 6,026
professionals in the UK, Germany, and the USA.
3. Poor reception on conference calls and video meetings.
This third point in the report is concerning because the vast majority of respondents experienced poor connections. When people are attending virtually, that leads to multitasking and half-hearted participation—never a plus if you want engagement and alignment. The experience of folks who are not in the immediate meeting room is often far less than for those in the room. Ask your people what support they need in getting the technology required to participate effectively.
With the globalization of business, virtual meetings are becoming the norm for many conversations. Video conferencing technology has made it possible for virtual meetings to include many elements of face-to-face meetings, but not if the technology isn’t functioning for everyone.
-Paul Axtell, author of Make Meetings Matter
For more on ways to transform meetings, check out Make Meetings Matter>>
Studies have shown that almost 40% of employees say that working with a great team is their primary reason for staying. So how can you make sure you're leading a collaborative team? Think back to a high pressure situation your team went through - did they stick together, or did they focus on themselves? However your team responded, there are four steps you can take to create team collaboration and accountability:
1. Define Your Purpose
In order to have an accountable team, each team member must know their individual purpose and the goal of the team as a whole. Have you defined your purpose to the team? Take action: ask your team to write down what they think the team is accountable for and see how closely the answers match. Depending on their answers, you may have to take additional steps to get everyone on the same page.
2. Track Team Progress
In order to lead a collaborative team, each team member must have a measurable way to track their progress. This will enable them to see how they're progressing towards their goals, allow them to pivot based on project milestone results and give the team a chance to celebrate their successes throughout the project. Take action: Discuss how you’re tracking progress with your team and find a way to make a visible progress tracker (i.e. whiteboard, poster, etc.) that everyone can see and update.
3. Create a Shared Fate
In order to go from an individual to team mindset, the team must have a shared fate; meaning, whatever happens to the individual happens to everyone. Unless they have a real and meaningful share fate, the team will fracture under pressure – worrying about themselves instead of the group's success. To create this mindset as a leader, you should model the behavior you're hoping to inspire and reward successful collaborative results more than individual performance. Take action: write down a list of behaviors you want to see in your team. Keep track of your own behavior for a week, writing down whether or not you’re emulating those behaviors as well.
4. Work Through Real Issues Together
How important is open and honest communication in the workplace? Research has shown that 99% of employees prefer a workplace where people identify and discuss issues truthfully and effectively. In addition, studies showed that 33% of workers said a lack of open, honest communication has the most negative impact on employee morale.
In order to motivate a team and make it safe for them to process real issues together, there needs to be a strong sense of shared fate and high levels of trust. The first part of this means that the team's level of decision-making authority needs to be clearly defined. The second part requires setting clear performance expectations so that any gaps in performance can be identified. This is crucial because giving honest feedback requires understanding what is expected and identifying what is getting in the way of success. Take action: set-up a time each week for open and honest feedback with your team.
For more on creating accountable teams, check out Revolutionize Teamwork>>
Accountability. Good employees are accountable. Good leaders hold their employees accountable. Good organizations have accountable cultures.In many ways accountability has become a holy grail to business success. But what does it really mean to be accountable? And what happens when someone isn’t accountable? How organizations deal with non-accountable behavior goes a long way to defining the organizational culture and the focus of the employees.
The generally accepted definition of being accountable is that “you do what you say you are going to do.” Yet everyone will inevitably fail on this accord. Does that mean they are not accountable?I think it is at that moment of not doing what they said they would do is when you find out if someone is going to act accountably or not. Non-accountable behavior is characterized by excuses, finger pointing, denial, deflecting or refusing to change. Accountable behavior, on the other hand, means taking responsibility for not delivering on the desired results and doing something different until the desired results are achieved.
Wouldn’t life be great if everyone exhibited accountable behavior 100% of the time? As great as that idea sounds it is not realistic and organizations must decide what to do when someone is not acting accountably. The responsibility usually falls on the leader to hold their employees accountable when they are not acting accountably. To effectively do this, leaders must engage in a series of steps starting with things like setting clear expectations, contracting, incentivizing, and putting feedback mechanisms in place. If that doesn’t do it then they must do things like coaching, reassessing, training or even setting consequences. Continued non-accountable behavior will often lead to disciplinary actions and even termination.
But who really has the accountability during this process? Who is the one doing something different until the desired results are achieved? The leader! The whole notion of holding someone accountable is really a myth. When a leader says they are holding someone accountable what they are really saying that they are taking the accountability away from the individual. They are now the ones that are doing something different until the desired results are achieved. And if they don’t achieve the desired results their leader is going to do the same thing to them. This is called leader led accountability and is the norm in most organizations.
There are two significant problems with this approach to managing accountability. One is that not everyone is good at taking the accountability from their employees (formerly known as holding them accountable). Some leaders are afraid of alienating their employees so they shy away from it or they convince themselves they can’t do until they are perfectly accountable themselves. The second problem is that it creates very upward looking organizations. Employees are constantly looking up to their boss as they are they ones whose expectations they have to meet and they are the ones who will take their accountability away if they don’t meet them.
But there is another way that accountability can be managed and that is when someone’s teammates take it. When team members start to do this to each other that is when the team becomes accountable and extraordinary team results can be achieved. In a lot of ways accountable teams are the ultimate holy grail. They are rare. Teams that are accountable are often considered an anomaly that happened as a result of unique circumstances, a special group of people or an extraordinary leader. While some or all of those do happen on accountable teams, they are part of much bigger array of factors that have to happen to make it possible. The good news is there is a definitive and predictable set of steps that will lead your team to becoming accountable.
Not being upfront or completely honest to yourself or your teammates is unacceptable. It breaks the most important team bond—trust. In the Blue Angels, there is no place for politics and no room for excuses. High performance teams require people who can accept criticism and continually strive to improve.
Millennials and boomers want to be understood, accepted, and appreciated for who they are in the field. Yet each generation represents two distinct cultures. Now, more than ever, it's important to improve teamwork and build mutual respect between these two groups leading the workforce.
Use this side-by-side list of workplace styles and values to help start the conversation with your own team now.