Using Team Meeting Time EffectivelyMarch 30 , 2022

Everyone wants something different. How do I decide?


  • A leader’s job is to make sure a team’s time together is well-spent—both on what members want but also what the leader knows they need.
  • Standardized agenda templates make planning easy and ensure important components of team development aren’t perpetually put off.
  • Setting an agenda can also reduce cognitive load on leaders and help them dedicate time previously spent planning to something more productive.

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:

  • 5 minutes: Round-robin ice breaker. This gets everyone in the mode of speaking and often brings up topics for social connection that can happen outside the meeting: “Hey, my favorite movie is ‘Get Shorty’ too. My favorite scene is…”
  • 5 minutes: Shout-outs/appreciation. Ask everyone to share something great someone else did, or a not-so-humble brag about themselves or their team. You can mix up the format or the question, or keep it standardized (and fast).
  • 15 minutes: Urgent issues. Check in with the team the day before the meeting about anything that needs to be addressed. If there’s nothing, cede this time to other agenda items.
  • 15 minutes: Normal business. This could be progress reports, updates on new policies, requests for five-minute favors, or general get-work-done stuff
  • 15 minutes: Rotating topics. Use this time each month to rotate through some of the topics your team—or you—want to cover. This could include professional development, deep dives into specific issues, longer team-development activities, etc. One tactic is to keep a running list of potential agenda topics on the bottom of the agenda template. At the end of each meeting during action items, ask for input on what people want for the rotating topic at the next meeting. This gives your team voice (the “democracy” you value) but also leaves the role of leading with you, the leader.
  • 5 minutes: Meeting recap and action items, so everyone knows what happens next.

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.

Don't forget to share this post!

follow us


Sign up to receive "Put Happiness to Work: Sticky Situations" in your inbox each week.


Related Articles