What every manager should be using to support their team.
Team meetings are crucial to the development of the team. Managers can get all their people in the same room, which opens up a direct line of communication for everyone involved in a project. This can help build trust within the team, allows the group to get work done more efficiently, and can help alleviate roadblocks to success.
Unfortunately, many companies miss the mark on creating the right meeting environment to coach their team through challenges.
Staff Meetings Most People are Used to Seeing
Default management often looks a little like this:
- Weekly team meetings with round robins about “what are you working on”
- One-on-ones that cover “what are you working on?”
- Annual performance reviews where managers discuss actual work performance.
It’s easy to understand why managers approach their teams this way. The regular appointments ensure the team gets together often, the one-on-ones create a platform for individuals to air grievances or insights they aren’t comfortable offering in front of peers, and the performance review gives the manager the opportunity to provide candid feedback. Most of all, this approach is practical: it lets the manager deal with workload in real-time and triage things that are most urgent.
Each interaction has its purpose, but what these types of meetings don’t inherently provide is a chance to focus on what’s important (even if it’s not urgent).
These meetings rarely deliver the real things that both managers and employees want:
- Better engagement with the entire team.
- Job growth for employees by dedicating time to asking questions.
- Improved work productivity.
In fact, these meetings actively work against those things because this structure places the burden of engagement, growth and productivity squarely on the shoulders of the manager while it is implied employees should focus on the tasks at hand. However, these larger goals should be owned and nurtured by every individual.
How These Meetings Damage Culture
After awhile, redundant and low energy meetings slowly lower the bar for everyone. There’s no real accountability of teammates to each other (he’s been reporting on the same project for months, no big deal if I don’t address X), of employees to managers (if he’s not asking, I’m not sharing) and perhaps most importantly, of managers to employees (what does she do all day anyway?). Every time someone isn’t held accountable, everyone else notices. The flip side is public humiliation isn’t exactly welcome either.
How to Help Your People
Breaking the cycle of talent management meeting mediocrity (try saying that five times fast) doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul of your schedules or of your management approach. The answer is simple – specificity. Ask better questions, you’ll get better answers and results.
To give you a better idea how leaders can help their company grow, here are five weekly performance meeting questions managers can ask. This post focuses specifically on what topics managers could ask their teams, but as a bonus includes questions to use to also infuse new life into their one-on-ones.
Weekly Performance Questions to Ask Your Team
There are a few things that are fairly universally important for most teams – they play some role in the customer experience, they have specific goals for efficiency and productivity, they have processes or projects that demand time and attention. Here are some weekly performance questions that get to the heart of those issues. If your team is small, consider focusing on just one or two questions each week or have meetings less often if your day-to-day demands already have you speaking frequently:
1. Tell me about a positive and negative interaction with a customer/client this week.
This is a question that shouldn’t be a round-robin. Ask this in your one-on-ones and identify the best case studies/examples every week. Ask specific employees (a different one every week) to share their experiences at the team meeting and create a conversation about whether what they learned can be replicated as a best practice, or can be improved. This not only creates an opportunity for team members to learn from each other, but keeps the customer front and center. Too often businesses default to what’s easiest and most efficient for the team and overlook the impact efficiencies and changes can have on the customer experience.
Open each meeting with specific and pre-prepared stories that not only put the customer at the center, but foster meeting ownership and empathy among teammates. If they know they’re going to have to be front and center one day, they’ll be more engaging and supportive when their peers are presenting. If your team isn’t customer facing, rework the question to ask “how did something you do this week impact the customer experience?”
2. How did we do this week compared to last week?
If you want a team that’s growing and improving, show them that what they do matters. Once a month should be compared to last month, once a quarter compared to last quarter, and once a year compared to last year. As the manager, bring forward key data points, feedback from other departments or customer insights that give the team something to react to. Show them you’re on top of what is happening and that all this sharing, talking and meeting drives results. If you don’t know what metrics or key performance indicators you should be tracking, it’s time for a sit down with your boss.
If possible, at least one of the KPIs you discuss on a quarterly basis should be financial, especially if you have employees who don’t naturally connect their day-to-day work to the bottom line.
3. What can you do differently next week to make life better for the customer, your team, and you?
Rotate these questions out each week. Ask for introspection and make sure you are identifying your own inefficiencies/roadblocks. A little vulnerability from the boss can go a long way. Make it OK to have room to improve and celebrate the small wins that lay a path for long term growth.
4. How did what you changed last week impact your work this week?
It’s not enough to find ways to expose the most creative and introspective thinking to managers and groups beyond your team. It needs to translate to behavior change.
Sales teams may hear for what seems like forever that speed to respond to a new lead and calling during specific times can increase the likelihood of a prospect’s response. The sales manager may be hearing crickets from their people because it’s an encouragement they cannot directly deliver (marketing finds the leads, sales calls them).
Instead of general ideas, you may need the team to try something more specific. See if people on the team can try calling at times they may not be used to. If an employee starts calling leads at 4:00 PM on a Friday, despite what common sense told her and is seeing really good results then suddenly people may start taking notice at the next team meeting.
Change happens over time. Make sure you are asking great questions of your team to help them feel involved with the change.
5. Who wants to share next week? (alternatively: what’s on the agenda for next week)
Once your team comes to expect a different format, make it a priority by giving them a week to prepare and own it. I had a boss who forced each of us to take turns running the office meeting, regardless of how old we were or how long we’d been a part of the team. The dispersed ownership not only made sure we all engaged, but that we had the meeting regardless of whether or not she could be present. The message was clear – you owe each other these discussions, not me.
Bonus: Icebreaker Questions
Getting great meetings off to a good start can be challenging. Here are some great questions for icebreakers that you might consider using:
- What has been the highlight of your day so far?
- What’s top of mind for you at work right now? What’s top of mind for you personally?
- What’s one important lesson you’ve learned at work this month?
- What are you reading right now?
- What’s your favorite meal of the day?
- What has been the best team experience for you and why?
What Has Worked At Your Company?
Do you have a story about a successful meeting within your company? We want to hear about it! Let the team at SentricHR know what your best meeting question has been & how it appeared to help your team get things done. We want to continue updating this article with the best of the best!