Everyone wants something different. How do I decide?
Q: I have a one-hour meeting with my team each week. That time is precious but it’s hard for me to prioritize how to spend it. When I survey my team for what they want, everyone wants something different, so whatever I decide, it will piss off some people. Every time I set an agenda, there’s an urgent issue that takes priority, so it’s hard to do skill-building and development for the team (which they really need). They also want 10-15 minutes to get work done. I like to do things democratically, but that’s not working in this case. Help!
A: Team meetings have a bad reputation but they are invaluable tools. They are a built-in venue to address urgent issues, get work done, and do the things that boost team engagement: appreciation, social connection, and professional development. But the pressure of what’s urgent—and the (very common) bad habit of throwing together agendas at the last minute—often means the time isn’t well-used.
As the team’s leader, your job is to make sure your time together is well-spent both on what your people want (voice is important), but also what you as their leader know they need. One helpful tool is a standardized agenda template. This takes the guesswork out of what the meeting should cover and ensures those important-but-not-urgent components of team development—like recognition and connection—aren’t perpetually put off. Here’s an example for an engagement-building one-hour meeting:
A standardized model with rotating “special topics” also gives space for team members to step up and lead different sections, which is a great way to utilize your team’s strengths (another core tool for engagement). Newer folks, or those just learning to facilitate, can take on something standardized, like the icebreaker. Those who are ready and excited to take on something more complicated can work with you to design professional development or in-depth problem-solving sessions. And those who aren’t interested in leading a section can participate effectively too because they know what’s coming each week.
And—possibly most importantly—you can put the energy you’ve been spending on agenda-development angst to a more productive use.