Call them what you will, staff meetings, team meetings … they are meetings and therefore inherently predisposed to a lot of opinions trending toward classifying them as awful. The reason for this overwhelming sentiment is that there are more examples of bad meetings than good meetings in the world. Most meetings lack a clear purpose. But when OKRs are implemented well, they can change how an organization operates, especially its meetings.
There are 1000s of articles and blogs that can tell you how to have better meetings. Here at Koan, we have a single suggestion to help you have better meetings: Spend less time on tactical topics and more time on strategic topics.
That seems simple, but here's how to do this in a way that actually works.
1. Set an agenda and capture updates before the meeting.
Every meeting should have a clear purpose, and setting the agenda ahead of time will help make it an efficient use of everyone's time. The most effective agendas have just a few topics and are set with realistic amounts of time for each agenda item. Not only does an agenda set expectations beforehand, but it also lets everyone come prepared and be more focused during the meeting
In addition to setting the agenda, prompt each member of your team to answer a few key questions that surface the highs and lows that truly matter:
- What are the important things you got done last week?
- What are your top priorities for this week?
- What concerns should the team be aware of?
- How are we tracking towards our key results?
Some like to call this the 3 P’s: Progress, Priorities, and Problems (or PPP) questions, but this structure helps to guide your team to include what’s important and skip the task lists and boring (albeit important) details. Here are some other details on how to craft a fantastic status update.
Additionally, it also gives your team a chance to reflect on their week, think about what’s relevant for the entire team, and prepare for the upcoming meeting. But adding some prep work ahead of time, already, you’ve elevated the conversation to focus on priorities and goals, not just a long list of tasks.
2. Start the meeting allowing everyone to read each other’s updates.
Regardless of how you capture everyone’s updates, we suggest allocating 10-15 minutes of your hour staff meeting to this step. By using meeting time for “prep,” your team will appreciate the respect for their time, plus the information will be fresh in everyone’s mind.
During these 10 minutes, encourage team members to react to each other’s updates, leave comments, and note anything they feel the team should discuss during the remainder of the staff meeting. By encouraging engagement and communication between team members, it will help boost visibility, identify any recurring themes, and shape important conversation topics during the meeting.
3. Spend the majority of the meeting digging in.
Now that everyone is on the same page with the current status of their teams’ goals, as well as the individual work of their teammates, the real discussions begin. Remember, meetings should be collaborative, rather than just reporting out information (that was the purpose of the status update).
Use the remainder of your staff meeting to discuss:
- Any questions that arose whilst reading each other’s status updates
- Progress toward completing goals, why things are or are not on track
- Review key health metrics to check in on team performance
As you dive deep into a more strategic conversation, be prepared to:
- Focus on collective problem-solving. Asking questions like, why aren’t we on track? Or do we have the right plan in place to get back on track? This will get everyone on the same page and focus on broader teamwork.
- Let hard conversations happen, offering reassurance that it’s okay to talk about such things. Pausing to also celebrate the good can help make harder conversations feel more natural.
- Remind your team there is no place for blame, that this is all about helping each other reach common goals and it’s okay that things go off track.
- Be sure conversations end with either a solution or the next step to identify the solution.
- Push irrelevant topics to the side to keep the team focused and the meeting productive.
- End with a summary, next steps, and a thank you. Thanking your team for spending this kind of energy is a small, but powerful gesture.
By dedicating time in every meeting to strategic conversations, it frames the meeting and provides a visual and reference to what matters as a group.
Now that you’ve had discussions around priorities, make sure to define action items and a clear owner who is accountable for it. Taking meeting notes and sharing them in an easily accessible place is a great way to allow everyone to follow up on their tasks.
By spending less time on tactical topics and more time on strategic topics, it can help amplify the organization’s most important efforts and can make it clear what the priorities are compared to individual or departmental updates.
When a meeting is focused on shared priorities and clearly defined benchmarks of progress, teams are more likely to walk away with a common understanding of the value of the meeting, plus what needs to be accomplished before the next one.
There’s no one perfect way to run a meeting, but we’ve realized a lot of benefits by structuring our meetings around our strategic priorities (we use OKRs). By running staff meetings this way, some of our customers have reported the following to be true for their teams:
- They appreciate the time held for the staff meeting instead of resenting another hour blocked from “getting work done”
- They are more engaged overall, caring more about what the entire team is working on instead of just their own assignments
- They find harder conversations become easier to have the more they get used to the format
- They report on progress toward goals with more freedom since they find they get more help from their teammates the more honest they are about the current status
- They find their meetings are more focused and even result in fewer (or shorter) meetings
As always, if you have any questions about what we’ve covered in this post, feel free to send us a note or reach out on Intercom. And if you haven’t already signed up, Koan can actually help support your meetings and facilitate one central place to have conversations around your strategic priorities. Get started managing your goals and reflections using Koan absolutely free.