In every company that we work with we find two problems: a lack of communication and a lack of accountability. We find these issues in every industry, at every size, and at every location. No one ever communicates enough. And no one likes holding others accountable.
The good news is that there is an easy fix: better meetings.
Notice that I didn’t say more meetings. I said better meetings. Taking up more of everyone’s time with pointless and boring meetings is not the solution. Using the meetings you do have more effectively is.
There are two very important meetings that you are probably not holding that can help improve both accountability and communication: Team Meetings and One-on-Ones.
Team meetings, if they are being held, are often boring and useless. Most teams hold them because they feel they need to, but they haven’t found an agenda that keeps everyone engaged and on the same page.
The goal of a team meeting is to make sure everyone knows what’s going on, what their priorities are moving forward, and to remove any obstacles to progress that have arisen. They should not just be a chance for everyone to info dump about every little thing on their task list.
The meeting should start with a quick check in on how everyone is doing. There are many different formats for this out there, including giving a rating of 1-10 of how they are feeling, sharing a personal or professional best, or giving a color for their current mood. Use whichever check in method works for your team. The objective is to give everyone a chance to check out of what they were just working on and check in to the meeting. It signifies the start of the meeting and asks everyone to be present from there on in.
Then comes the information dump, but not in the way it is usually done. This dump should be quick and not include any discussion. It is a short check up on major projects, clients, employees, metrics, and to dos. At the end of this info dump everyone in the meeting should have a handle on how the team is doing and be aware of any problem areas that need to be discussed.
This is where the rest of the meeting should be spent. In identifying and solving problems. Most meetings just get to the information dump and don’t actually accomplish anything. Once you have gathered the data on the overall progress and health of the team, identify the biggest area of concern and work to solve that problem.
The problem solving component is what makes meetings more effective, more engaging, and more accountable. Every problem solved results in an action item, or to do, which ensures progress is made every week towards the major goals of the team. Those to dos are followed up on the next week to make sure they were done.
As Patrick Lencioni says in his book Death By Meeting, most meetings are boring because they have no conflict, no drama. Not drama in the sense of gossiping or infighting, but in the sense of action. Just like a tv show or movie, a meeting will not capture anyone’s excitement or engagement if there is no challenge to conquer or problem to solve.
Not only will your team enjoy meetings more if you spend time problem solving, you’ll also find better solutions. The more brains working on a problem the better the solutions you will find. As long as everyone feels comfortable sharing and adding ideas that is, but that’s a blog for another day.
The second meeting you need to make sure you’re having is one-on-ones.
Most people look at us like we have three heads when we suggest that they meet weekly with their direct reports. But having regular, weekly, one-on-ones is the best way to start improving communication and accountability.
The main pushback that we get from managers is that they talk with their employees all the time. And they’re right. But those conversations tend to be very short and about something very specific. So, though you’re talking constantly, you’re not diving deeper or discussing anything non-task related. One-on-ones allow you the time and space to do just that.
One-on-one meetings help you to maintain open communication, build better relationships, and provide timely feedback. It should be a private conversation – just you and your direct report. And as much as possible you should meet on the same day, at the same time, and follow the same agenda.
An easy agenda to follow is to break the meeting into thirds. The first third is for the employee. Anything they want to tell you, about anything. The primary focus of this meeting is them. Give them a space to share, bring up issues, and get guidance from you. The middle third is for you. To follow up on items, check in on progress, and provide feedback. The final third is for growth. Discuss how they can continue to improve and where and how they want to grow.
You might not feel that you have the time to meet with your direct reports on such a regular basis, but these meetings are invaluable. They keep you and your employee on the same page week in and week out, instantly improving productivity. With the added bonus of showing your employees that you care enough about them to set aside time just for them.
Improve your meetings to improve your company.
To recap, adding, or improving, these two types of meetings will help improve both communication and accountability at your company. However, holding effective meetings is easier said than done.
It will take discipline on your part, as the leader, to ensure that these meetings are taken seriously. And that they take place. We’ve seen it time and time again that other priorities, or fires, push these meetings off the calendar. But you have to be stalwart in your commitment. If you don’t have these meetings consistently, you won’t realize the benefit of them. Your team will follow your lead here. If you constantly miss or reschedule, your team will too.
When you make the commitment to improving the effectiveness of your meetings, you will see an improvement across the company. It’s an easy process to start, but a harder one to maintain. Eventually, the importance of these more effective meetings will become engrained in the culture and the push from you won’t need to be as strong. And trust us, it’s worth the effort.