Here’ a question for you if you’re a manager or a team leader. How do you spend the first 5 minutes of your your weekly/ fortnightly team meetings?
- We get straight down to serious business (e.g. we share project status updates)
- We talk about something work related but fairly light (e.g. we share good news stories)
- We discuss something totally unrelated to work (e.g. we talk about favourite movies)
I’m guessing A is a popular answer. After all, time is money and the cost of having 6 or 12 people in a room means that there is surely not a moment to spare. Why waste time with frivolous matters when there’s important work to be done?
I think B would also be quite a popular option. This approach eases people into the meeting and can introduce a positive mood into the room, while still contributing to getting the work done.
I suspect C is probably the least frequently used meeting starter. Meeting time is too valuable to spend time talking about things that have nothing to do with work, right?
My answer is C. When operating in leadership roles I’ve always commenced regular team meetings by posing a non-work question and inviting everyone to respond.
The following are a few of the questions I’ve posed at various times:
- What’s your favourite movie?
- Who would you most like to invite to dinner?
- When you were a child what did you want to do when you grew up?
- Where do you feel most relaxed?
- What’s your favourite animal?
- What are you most looking forward to this year?
- What musical instrument do you play/ would you like to play?
- What current TV show do you enjoy?
- What is something you would really like to learn?
- If you could have a superpower what would it be?
- What do you like best about this time of year?
I make sure the question is able to answered by everyone, is not likely to cause any offence or controversy, is appropriate for the level of trust in the team, and has no direct connection with work. I invite all team members to give a succinct answer, make it clear no responses are better or worse than others and I thank everyone for their contribution. I try to keep things light-hearted and if anyone doesn’t want to respond or can’t think of a response I don’t push or make a big deal of it.
I’ve found that starting my team meetings by giving people a chance to safely share something about themselves gives a number of benefits:
- It sets a pattern of people presenting their authentic, human selves at work
- It helps people form deeper personal connections with their work colleagues
- It gets everyone talking from the start and increases contributions throughout the meeting
- It helps team members better understand and appreciate the rich diversity in the team
I believe that the 5 to 10 minutes spent once a week or once a fortnight doing this at the start of each team meeting is an excellent time investment. The remaining 50 minutes of the meeting, and the numerous other hours in each work week, leave more than enough time to focus on more serious matters.
If you haven’t tried this before give it a go at your next team meeting and see what happens.