How To Have Brilliant Team Meetings…

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1. How do you think a digital detox could benefit the flow of a meeting and stimulate creative thought and focused discussion?


Introducing a digital detox to a team meeting is a great way of interrupting people if they typically are checking their phones, are on their lap-tops/ipads during meetings.  

Interrupting has people stop and think  

It helps people be more present and present to each other and will stimulate thinking and a more focused discussion providing the team leaders signals this intention.

Intention is key! 

Ask people, for the purpose of this meeting, to switch off their phones, put away their lap-tops. If there are people taking notes on their phones/lap-tops they can sign post that this is what they are going to be doing. Equally if someone is ‘on call’ they can sign post that this is why they have their phone on.

Limit the number of power-point slides….. There is a time and place for power-point however over reliance on it gets in the way of creating thinking and focused discussion. One of the major draw backs, other than over-crowded slides and way to many of them, is that people are not looking at each other they are looking at the slides.

If you need to use power-point then no more than 5 slides is a good steer!

To stimulate creative thinking the team leader needs to create an environment in which people can think and are encouraged to share their ideas, to challenge each other’s thinking and to build on each other’s thoughts. 

It is all in the set up and again in the intention. If the team meeting is all about creating thinking, getting people to think big, differently and to question then say so at the outset! Invite people to challenge and support each other’s ideas, to ask questions to gain further insights and understanding. 

Most importantly ask people to listen generously and spaciously – to listen for understanding rather than to give opinions. Too often people listen and are over zealous in giving their opinion rather than listening and asking questions to find out more and deepen their understanding.

The team leader’s job is to keep the ideas coming, to seek ideas from those people who haven’t shared theirs, to create the space for the ideas.

Pay attention to the size of relationships in the team, the group, the meeting – people will be more creative, explore more possibilities in bigger, stronger relationships. Help people to build big enough relationships with each other inside of which they can share ideas, ask questions and challenge as well as support.

2. How can team leaders/chairs run meetings effectively to stay on track but also allow creative discussion?

Team leaders/chairs can run more effective meetings by setting a clear purpose – why these people in this meeting, and why this agenda with what outcomes. 

For example, get clear on what kind of meeting it is – is it primarily about sharing information? Is it about making decisions, or perhaps one big urgent decision? Is about building relationships in the team, focusing on our team dynamics? Is it a strategy meeting, thinking big and beyond?

The team leader/chair needs to create a safe space in which people can contribute their thoughts, feelings and ideas equally setting the clear purpose, the desired outcomes for the meeting helps people to feel safe – they know what the set up is. 

If you are the team leader or chair then make sure you are in the meeting room space first – be it a physical room and, or a virtual team space so that you can welcome people in.  

In a physical space I always endeavour to sit so that I am facing the door in order to be able to welcome people into the room. I make a point of saying hello to everyone, and if the context is right, for example I am meeting people for the first time I make a point of shaking their hands and if I don’t know the person finding out their name, and introducing myself.

3. Does implementing practical limitations of meetings work? Or do they hinder the flow/discussion (I.e. keeping all meetings to 30 mins maximum, having a ‘meeting free day’, having ‘standing’ meetings as opposed to sitting down)

Setting clear boundaries does work.

Start on time, finish on time.

If a meeting does look like it is going to over run sign post and check out that people have the space, time and energy to continue the meeting for a further 15 minutes/30 minutes.

Help people manage their energies – people’s attention span is going to wander if they have been sitting too long, going through a lengthy power-point – break things up, have breaks – pay attention to the energy flow in a meeting and respond to it

Allow space between meetings, I know of at least one organisation where they have 50 minute meetings to allow people to get from A to B, and to have space between meetings. People have other meetings and things to do, other than the meeting they are in – acknowledge this and help people to manage their energy not only for your meeting but also for their next meeting and, or commitment.

I am a great believer in the stand up meeting, it signals that this will be a short meeting – say 15 minutes/maximum 30 minutes, and that it is going to be a quick focused exchange on for example the key things that need to be addressed today – or the big rocks for this week.

I am a big fan of the ‘walk and talk’ meeting, ideal for one to one meetings. There is much to be said for walking and talking side by side and for getting outside – in warmer weather sitting outside again side by side. A quick walk round the block is energising and the being on the move can help in the moving along and flow of a discussion. 

In team meetings I will often suggest, as part of managing the energy, that people pair up ideally with someone they know less well and have a ‘walk and talk’ for 15 minutes (or longer) and come back with their thinking on a subject.

Meeting free days are great too! As with all these key to their success is having a go, seeing what it is like to have a meeting free day, and as ever being clear on why you/we are having a meeting free day/s.

4. Do you have any practised tips/tricks on the psychology of meetings and how best to run them?

Be welcoming – thank people for coming to the meeting, let them know that their contribution is valuable.

Sign post – sign posting is a great thing to practise, it is about letting people know why you are doing what you are doing.

Be clear about purpose of meeting.

Allow everyone to say something at the very beginning helps create a safe space and encourages the more reticent people to contribute.

Equal contribution matters.

Have a check in at the beginning, go round the table (if you have a table), or go round the group have people each say Something by way of introducing themselves – this helps create a safe environment.

At the end of the meeting have a check out, again go round the table, or group and have people each share something about what they enjoyed, learnt are going to action as a result of the meeting.

Make sure that you thank people at the end of the meeting for their time and energy. Acknowledging and thanking people is important!

Manage your own energy, if you notice your energy dropping other people’s probably is too – help them to manage theirs – have breaks that give people enough time to stop, pause, take stock and to move about. When they come back from a break invite people to sit somewhere else again helps move the energy, changes the dynamic.

Have fun! We spend loads of time in meetings, make sure that it is enjoyable.

Ask yourself how do you want people to feel at the beginning, during and at the end of the meeting – what do you want people to be saying and doing as they leave the meeting….

I often remind people at the start of the meeting about speaking from the ‘I’, so ‘I think’, ‘I feel’ ‘I am wondering….’ rather than talking about ‘we’ or worse ‘one’; by encouraging use of the ‘I’ I am encouraging people to take responsibility for their thinking.their contribution – to own it. It also means that when we talk about ‘we’ it is more powerful. In addition it makes it easier to listen – if someone is talking about their particular experience and owning it I can hear it, whereas if someone uses the ‘we’ and my experience is very different I can feel uncomfortable that I am being drawn in/used to make a point.

I ask people to address each other as ‘you’, so if, for example, I am talking to you and, or acknowledging something that you have done I say it directly to you – rather than speaking about you as if you were not in the meeting. By doing this I am encouraging direct communication between people that has greater energy and a way more powerful impact.


Anni Townend