Month after month (or maybe it’s week after week), your team gets together for its regularly scheduled meeting. It’s an important chance to connect, check progress, work through current issues and come up with new ideas and strategies for the future.
But is it all starting to feel a bit stale?
As John Medina, author of the book Brain Rules, has noted, “People don't pay attention to boring things. So if you really want to have a lousy meeting, make sure it's boring.” In other words, if it’s not somewhat interesting and fun, the brain checks out. And that means boring meetings are more than just potential morale killers and insomnia cures; they can also be a colossal waste of time.
So, back to that regularly scheduled meeting: When was the last time you looked over your team meeting routine? Now might be a good time for a refresh.
Here are a few ideas for mixing it up, based on what we know about thinking and the brain. Try incorporating one or more of these into your plans so that you can keep people engaged and make better use of that valuable time.
- Explore new technology and tools: Even if your team is co-located, technology can provide new insights and opportunities for people to engage and collaborate in different ways. You can also use technology before and after meetings so that you can spend the meeting time on those things the team truly needs to be together to address. Ask the team for suggestions and ideas, and make sure people have the training and support they need to feel comfortable using the tools.
- “Color” your meetings: Take a look at the Whole Brain® Model for a snapshot of the four thinking quadrants. Is your team missing some key areas of thinking? Is there a specific area that needs more attention? Try injecting thinking-specific meetings into your lineup. For example, if planning and details are a weakness, make it a point to organize a “Green” meeting, where the team focuses in on the Green/B-quadrant thinking aspects. Stuck in the weeds of a process-heavy project or task? Consider a “Yellow” meeting that encourages people to take a break from the routine and think in more imaginative, big-picture, D-quadrant ways.
- Mix up the members: Purposely invite a cross-section of people from different teams and departments, and look for opportunities to bring in guest speakers or collaborators. It not only mixes up your routine, it adds to the cognitive diversity available, giving your team access to new perspectives, backgrounds and approaches. Just be sure to prepare the team by setting expectations, underscoring the value of different kinds of thinking and encouraging openness to new ideas.
- Be willing to let go of the routine. It’s handy to have that standard meeting on the calendar, with its same designated conference room or dial-in number that everyone knows by heart. But if you’re not careful, “routine” can become a rut. Don’t be afraid to be a little spontaneous about when, how and even whether to meet. Try a standup meeting. Go offsite. Bring in toys or games to spark some creativity and energize the group. Ask for the team’s input, and rotate team leads, if appropriate. And by all means, if there’s no good productive, valuable reason to have the meeting, don’t have it.
Keep it fresh! By incorporating different approaches into your meetings, you’ll get more buy-in from your team and keep their attention longer.
Get a full checklist of team meeting ideas, as well as sample agendas and other exercises and tools for mixing it up and keeping people engaged, by downloading our new guide, Meetings That Actually Work: Your Toolkit for Ending Meeting Misery for Good.