Nobody likes meetings. It’s the most joked-about thing in the corporate world for good reason: most people don’t know how to host meetings. They get in the mindset that what they’re saying is gospel, but they never make it interesting to their staff. Getting paid to show up is not the same thing as paying attention. If you want to respect your own time and your team’s time, this is what you need to do.
Tips for Leading Effective Team Meetings
Leading a meeting sounds easy, but trust us: it’s much simpler in your head. Garnering attention and then holding onto it for the duration of a meeting is difficult for anyone, even as the person that signs the checks.
Use these tips to your advantage to lead meetings and actually get through to your staff members. Nobody wants to feel as though they’re wasting time at one of these meetings.
Don’t Talk About Reporting, Talk About Teamwork
It’s very, very easy to focus on data and numbers as a CrossFit affiliate, but to be frank, your team members don’t care about that. Unless they’re going to make more money for bumping up the statistics you want, they won’t have any personal involvement. Who can blame them? You stand to gain while they really don’t.
Talk about teamwork. Discuss what can be done as a team instead of how they can help inflate your numbers and bring more money in.
- Point Out Team Strengths: Nobody just wants to be told the bad stuff. Make it a habit to talk about what they’ve done as a team that you’re really proud of. Nothing to do with numbers. It could be a few occasions in recent memory where they handled a rush really well, or that they’re receiving name mentions in positive survey results.
- Appeal to Their Interests: What would they like from a team meeting? What would make them feel glad that they came? Whatever it is, be sure to include it and make their teamwork and its value known to them.
- Focus on Them: You’re the head honcho—no offense, but nobody wants to hear about you. The whole building revolves around you in a sense, so they don’t want to know what’s going on with you (beyond some surface-level things). In the meeting, they want to know how what you’re saying affects them.
Your team is your priority. If you take care of them, they’ll take care of your clients, and your clients will take care of your bank account. It’s a full circle, and you control how fast it spins with the effort you put behind your team. Let them know you’re there for them before profits, and it will pay off in the long run.
Ask Your Team Members for Their Personal Input
The number one mistake that all bosses get wrong when they call a meeting is that it’s an “I talk, you listen” type of event. Notice we said bosses, not leaders.
If you’re leading your team, you’re building them up, making sure their voices are heard, and letting them air their concerns. If you lead, you make people better. If you boss them around, you stifle their voices and input (which can put them on the fast track to looking for another job the minute they walk out of that meeting).
Ask your team members if they have any input in a very direct manner. No matter how much experience you personally have manning the front desk, or fixing the treadmills, or dealing with marketing, you aren’t causing the evolution of those positions.
The desk agent who works tirelessly through customer service every single day can spot trends in your customers better than you can. Their input is valuable.
The trainer who’s taught 200 classes in the last few months has a ton of input, because they’re the ones talking directly with your class clients and hearing what they want.
You lead them by helping them, not by pushing them around. Make sure they have a stage to voice their concerns, opinions, and input. You’ll know the good employees from the bad; you’ll know which advice to take to heart and what you can push off to the side.
Always Have an Agenda so Staff Can Track Meeting Progress
When you call a meeting, don’t just do it for the sake of calling a meeting. You should have a reason to bring everyone together. If you plan monthly meetings and this month there isn’t a lot to talk about, consider canceling the meeting—it’s better to give them that time off than have them come in for no reason. It will water down the importance of future meetings.
Make an agenda and stick to it. Make time for them, but be sure to cover all the points you want to cover before you run out of time, or run out of their attention.
The whole “This could have been an email” joke is almost always related to meetings where a leader talks and everyone listens, then they go home. That might as well be a memo.
Instead, make sure the agenda is two-sided: time for you to talk, and time for them to talk. That collaborative environment and conversation that everyone’s a part of isn’t something that can be done effectively through an email chain.
Ensure Everyone Has an Opportunity to Speak
Start with some open mic time. They can talk about whatever they want, even if it makes you want to roll your eyes. Even if it’s trivial to you. Remember that the owner and operator of a business endures different problems than the employees, so hear them out.
Leave some open air for them to talk without having to prompt them. We’ll get to that later. Right now, let them air grievances, issues, and ask you questions directly. This would even be a good time to address other coworkers if there’s any mountain tension.
Be diplomatic, let them talk, and mediate, but give your employees some room to talk about whatever is frustrating them. Next, we’re going to ask some questions that encourage them to contribute to the meeting.
Ask Them Questions That Encourage Speaking Out
This is imperative—you have to be impartial to what they say. You can’t take it personally. When they speak, it’s to air a genuine concern, and the look on your face will say it all. It may even stop them in their tracks, which will hinder progress.
To help them continue their conversations, ask them these questions to get them to speak up:
- What would you do to improve the productivity in this gym? Let’s start off with the real questions: how would they improve the gym from its current state? Keep in mind these ideas they talk about next might not be their own. They may hear suggestions from customers, coworkers, or previous employees and bring them to light right here and now. That doesn’t make them illegitimate—every opinion is an opportunity to seek out what does and doesn’t work in your business, and consider changing some of those practices.
- What’s the biggest motivator you have to work right now? It’s obviously money, but beyond that, what do they enjoy about the job? Do they like talking to customers? Is there a particular part of their job that they really enjoy? Find a way to double down on the parts of their job that they enjoy doing so work feels less like a chore, and more like an enjoyable task.
- Is there anything that could be done to help you improve work-life balance? Balancing is always an act. Are your employees getting to your store by bus? Is it eating into their paychecks? Consider getting them a bus pass. Are the shift hours interfering with their ability to commute or deal with personal priorities? Hear them out.
- What would you change about your current position and responsibilities? Sometimes a certain responsibility doesn’t feel fair, and it’s not always clear why. Talk to your staff and help clear the air about their current responsibilities. Maybe they’re sick of one task that feels like it should be another department’s responsibility, or they notice that work is disproportionately on them versus another coworker. Now’s the time to get them to speak up and make a change.
- How are you handling your current workload? Check in on your staff’s mental health. Are they in charge of too many participants during classes? Are the busy times getting to be too rough for your one front desk staff? Their current workload will likely pale in comparison to yours, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be heard.
- What could we provide to help you make your work day easier? This opens up a unique opportunity. If your team already has resources in mind that could help them accelerate their tasks and improve their performance, you just gave them an opportunity to talk about it. Maybe they noticed the way another gym is running things, or they have ideas and want to rise through the ranks. This could be the start of a good change for your gym.
Do your best to remember that they’re here to get paid, so when you surprise them with thought-provoking questions that make them feel valued and appreciated, you’re increasing the value of their employment with you. You can use meetings as a motivational method to refuel the proverbial effort gas tank in each of your team members.
Don’t Get Angry or Punish Responses
You evoked responses with thoughtful questions, and they talked. It’s human nature to be upset at some of the things they say. Even if it doesn’t feel like it attacks you directly, it could make you defensive on behalf of your business.
You’ve spent all this time building up a business, and now it’s on the chopping block in the court of employee opinions. It can be disheartening, but you shouldn’t punish responses. Everyone should feel like they’re able to voice their concerns or critiques anyway. You know why?
It only makes you stronger. It may point out some aspects of your business that you were biased against and didn’t realize. It’s essentially an amazing opportunity to make improvements on your own management skills and the business.
Discuss What You’d Like to See Moving Forward
Without putting down what your team has achieved so far, make sure you talk about what you want to see in the next month or three months. This is the perfect time to briefly bring up your vision plan and mission statement so your team knows what direction you want to head in.
It’s difficult to find a way to talk about goals without discussing the monetary side of it. If you have the opportunity, talk about changes in the future that would benefit your staff. These can be points you’ve thought of from the previous meeting that you took into consideration.
If you do that, team members will feel heard and know that their input is valuable. This is how you build a healthy workplace culture moving forward. Discuss the future and your team’s place in it.
Run Your Meetings Quickly and Keep Their Attention
You know those t-shirts and mugs that say “This meeting could have been an email”? You want to be the furthest thing away from that workplace stereotype. Have purpose, speak concisely, and maintain your team’s attention during a meeting. After all, attendance and paying attention are two different things.
Go over your points quickly, give them a chance to speak, and actually take notes. Afterward, talk to them and ask if the notes you took down embodied what they meant, and make them feel special. Your team meetings are a chance to build your own team culture—don’t waste these opportunities.