Its Monday, 9 a.m. and the whole team is gathering in the conference room. People are talking about what they did that weekend, but the looks are restless. Trains are running late and everyone is waiting for the creative director or head of account services to arrive. Status reports are still printing and people are looking at their watches. The warning signs that this may be a long meeting are already there.
Do you start? Do you wait? Do you dread this is going to be another wasted morning?
Honestly, it may be time to reset the way you approach the weekly meetings.
Many may argue that status meetings are a waste. I disagree. Not only does the status meeting provide the team a chance to discuss the latest happenings on creative, production and media projects (which is vital to your project management goals), there is, I argue, a larger, more important reason to have these meetings.
Group cohesiveness & community building.
Weekly meetings may be the only time the entire group will get together, save for happy hour, the entire week. So it can be a very wise choice to keep this meeting in place. These meetings provide a chance for the group to get to know each other better, to hear about other off topic goings-on and provide a bonding experience, even if it is to moan about how early it is. While we learn and hear about problems and issues, this is an opportunity for everyone to learn what's going on in each other's departments. For example, you may find that there opportunities to grow cross-discipline cooperation or for someone to share some new knowledge that may benefit the entire group. This is the time to encourage feedback and ideas, to re-enforce that this is the time where anyone can speak up and contribute to any project or activity. Yes, the full off-topic conversation can be pushed to an offline discussion, but at least the new connection is made.
So, how can we make these meetings more successful?
1. Have a consistent member of the management team run the meeting. Setup in advance who the substitute facilitator will be, so these meetings can continue to run on time.
2. Stick to a start time and an end time. If 9 o'clock is too early for everyone, move it to 9:30. Set a start time and stick to it. Then set a time limit for the meeting and stick to it.
3. Set a consistent agenda. Go old school if you have to; old Business, new business, status reports, announcements and adjourn. It sounds simple, but it works. It sets expectations and routines that will carry from one meeting to the next.
4. Keep things focused. If you are leading the meeting, speak up when things get too off topic. Interrupt, but be nice about it. If things need further follow up, make people accountable for a future get together or huddle on the issue. Be positive and actively facilitate.
5. Make sure status reports are done (on paper or digitally). There should be no status reports where people are pulling things out of memory.
6. Status report discussions should be top line during these meetings. Doing the report ahead of time is an important organizational tool. However, if someone doesn't have one, don't loose your cool. Stay positive, address the issue, make people accountable and move on.
7. Be a role model and set expectations on how people treat each other during the meeting. It should go without saying, as the leader of the meeting, you set the tone. Note conflict situations, address them in the proper way. Actively participate in conflict resolution. If needed, summarize agreements during the meeting to ensure that everyone is unified in how to address the issue and then follow up after the meeting to make sure things are o.k.
8. Make sure your project managers or account managers are taking notes.
9. Ensure there is follow through on the status reports. Official "published" versions of the status reports should go out shortly after the meeting, revised with comments and input from this status meeting.
10. Try a having a meeting without laptops, without iphones and without blackberries. Limit distractions.
11. On the opposite end, if you do have the room, get out of the conference room. Less formal meeting settings can place people more at ease and perhaps be more open and willing to participate. Make sure you do it in an area where everyone can see each other.
12. Above all, be positive and show energy. Encourage people to participate and encourage feedback. Draw people in and if someone is late, welcome them. The more accepting you are, the better at ease your staff is going to be and the more your staff is going to want to contribute.
Above all, these meetings should be part of the model on how the entire agency should operate. It's an ad agency, right? It's all about ideas, right? Then start here. Create an environment where ideas are encouraged and I believe you'll find people participating and being actively engaged.
Lastly, if your agency doesn't fit in a conference room, then these meetings need to be TEAM oriented, there is no reason to have status meetings with 50 people in the room.
However, there is a reason to have a biweekly or monthly all-hands meeting.
All-Hands meeting - building community.
All-hands meetings are very important to the health on an organization. It helps to build community by creating a forum where you can share and re-enforce agency beliefs and values. It's an opportunity to create a little agency-wide learning. It allows time to share things that can enhance the overall health of your agency socially. Knowledge about the beliefs of an agency are created by sharing a community's history, an informal ceremony (praise for great work, or a great job someone is doing) or by an agency ritual. It's important in your agency to build a sense of belonging, where conversations can happen, where possibilities are shown, commitments can be made or renewed and loyalty to the group is sown.
Agency life can encompass such a large amount of a person's time in life that it really goes a long way if you build a sense of community, so people know that not only do you have their back, but everyone in the agency is there to support each other in building something together.
Take time to build community in your agency.