Eight Tips for Effective Team Meetings

by Cathy Wagner, RETAILmavens

I got an email from Seth Godin, bestselling author, entrepreneur, and agent of change. He asked, “Can your next meeting (not conversation, not presentation, but meeting) pass this test?”

What followed were these criteria.
• There’s one person responsible.
• The time allocated matches what’s needed, not what the calendar app says.
• Everyone invited is someone who needs to be there, and no key party is missing.
• There’s a default step forward if someone doesn’t come.
• There’s no better way to move this forward than to have this meeting.
• The desired outcome is clearly stated. The organizer has described what would have to happen for the meeting to be cancelled or to stop midway. “This is what I want to happen, and if there’s a ‘yes,’ we’re done.”
• All relevant information, including analysis, is available to all in plenty of time to be reviewed in advance.

“If you score a seven, count me in,” he concluded.

I thought, “Count me in, too, Mr. Godin, because that meeting is going to be efficient, informative and worth my time to attend.”

Just last week, a storeowner told me that staff meetings were a waste of time. I was shocked. I have heard many excuses why retailers don’t have meetings, but I never heard anyone say that they weren’t worth doing at all.

I asked what led to that opinion and out spewed all the reasons. Some, I thought, were valid but some were not. I also thought that one of the biggest problems was the retailer’s perspective on the people who work there; and specifically calling it a “staff meeting.” I never had a staff. Ever. I always had a team and we had “team meetings.” The difference between the two is huge and I could write a whole other article on that alone! Just trust me when I say that what you want is a team!

Meetings are worth having if they are productive, but I can come up with a long list of counterproductive practices that can throw the intended outcome off course, fast. Because I don’t want you to make these mistakes, I’ve listed my top eight here.

1. Going longer than one hour.
The brain can only absorb what the butt can withstand – usually about an hour of sitting. It’s crucial to keep meetings short and sweet, so give them a time limit.

2. Feeding your team during the meeting.
It’s a business meeting, folks, not a party! I never provided food – only drinks. I wanted everyone to focus on the content, not on licking their fingers. If you feel you must feed everyone, do so afterwards.

3. Not having an agenda.
You are paying for your team to show up, so you owe it to them to be as productive as possible. You should not only have an agenda, you should stick to it! Be the boss and keep everyone on track.

4. Not using a “Parking Lot.”
If someone brings up an issue that is not on the agenda, tell her that it will be put into the Parking Lot – a holding place, per se, of topics that will be addressed later. Look her in the eye and tell her that you will get back to her within 48 hours with a time and a place to meet and discuss the concern. Emphasize the need to follow the agenda, and be proactive about staying on topic. Write down the issue or question so you won’t forget it!

5. Covering too much information that takes too much time.
It is a common mistake. After you’ve planned a few team meetings, you’ll learn how much content is too much. And if you’re meeting with your team regularly (this list ought to help you do that), you can spread topics out over several sessions.

6. Allowing the discussion to turn into a whining session.
Simply don’t allow whining, and reiterate that the purpose of the meeting is to share information and build skills that will result in growth. Explain that you care about their jobs and respect their time and attention. Yes, you want to know about their concerns and are recording them in the Parking Lot, but team meetings are a No-Whining Zone. I believe that your entire store should be a No-Whining Zone.

7. Ignoring the fact your team members are salespeople.
Without exception, every team meeting should include time dedicated to improving sales skills. As the leader, you are responsible for giving them the tools they need to do the best job that they can. A good way to accomplish this is to ask one team member at each meeting to role-play a common objection that he gets from customers. The exercise gets everyone involved and addresses the real situations that they face each day.

8. Giving the impression that team meetings are optional.
Make it clear during the hiring process that attendance is mandatory and nonnegotiable. Prepare a meeting schedule to give to new hires that covers at least the next four months, if not the next year. It makes it easy for them to attend and, in the long run, will reduce any objections.

Cathy Wagner is a former retailer and founder of coaching and consulting firm RETAILmavens in Elgin, Illinois. The company helps independent retailers become more profitable with proven programs that drive foot traffic and move product. For more information visit retailmavens.com or call 847-622-8382. Take her quick quiz at retailsuccessquiz.com to see how you compare to the top 1 percent of retailers.

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