Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Team Meeting Series: Scheduling

Actions to take: Treat the timing of your weekly team meeting as one of the most important decisions you make. Analyze schedules and obligations to minimize conflicts. Review your choice with your team prior to making a final decision. Take time explaining why you chose the timeslot you chose.

This is a post in a short series about running your team meetings, i.e. the regularly scheduled meeting with all of your direct reports in attendance. Many of the lessons apply to other meetings, but team meetings are the focus.

There are certain moments in your managerial career where you have the opportunity to gain significant respect with your team based on a single action or set of actions. Defending your team against unfair criticism from upper management; effectively dealing with that problem employee who has skated by for years; having those hard, candid conversations that help employees improve their skills. These actions show your true colors as a manager. Deciding on the timeslot for your weekly team meeting, mundane as it is, is one of those moments.

Spend at least three weeks determining the best time for your weekly team meeting. During that time, do the following:

  1. Analyze schedules: Take time pouring over various schedules to find the ideal time for your weekly team meeting: team members' schedules, your schedule, broader organization meetings, customer service desk schedule if there is one, etc. You are looking for a time that both fits into everyone's workflow and fits into the flow of information throughout the organization. For instance, if you attend a meeting of site managers bi-weekly on Wednesdays, Thursday might be an ideal time for your team meeting.
  2. Ask your team: After you have selected a time slot or two, vet that slot with each of your team members in their one-on-one. What do they think? Does it fit with their workflow? Are there any problems with the time slot that you overlooked? You won't be able to please everyone. This step will allow you to please the most people and be aware of the ones who will not be satisfied.
  3. Explain your decision: Never skip "why" when announcing a change. If you spend time telling your team why you picked the time you picked, a few things happen. First, they will see how much thought you put into the decision. Second, the team will see how many factors you considered, showing that you made the decision with everyone's best interest in mind. Third, the people who are not satisfied with the time slot are more likely to understand and accept it. 
There is no such thing as putting too much energy into this decision. The work you put in will reflect brilliantly on you as a manager. Your team will notice. It will reinforce the idea that you work for them, for their best interests. Further, it will be a signal. If you are putting this much work into just the scheduling of this meeting, then the meeting itself must be of great importance. 

That covers the most important points. We will close out with a few specific tips for deciding the best time for your weekly meeting:

  • No Monday morning: For many people, Monday morning is the most productive time of their week. They get their entire week's work planned out for maximum effectiveness. These employees will resent it if that time is taken away.
  • No Friday: In addition to annoying people, Friday meetings have the most absenteeism because people virtually always take Friday off as part of vacation. 
  • Not at noon: Once a quarter, feel free to do a lunch meeting with your team as a special activity. As standard practice, though, lunch meetings are entirely unproductive. Half the time is spent on food (getting it, talking about it, eating it). Making your team eat before or after a noon meeting every week is even worse. Once again, they'll resent the time taken, which means less engagement in the meeting.

The average boss throws together a team meeting once a month (if that), and doesn't pay a whole lot of attention to when it gets scheduled. The boss will pick a time and assume that the issues with attendance and lack of attention are the employees' fault rather than their own. Better bosses realize that timing has a major impact on both attendance and engagement. They treat the scheduling decision seriously, and they have the results to show for it.

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