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How to build a happier, more productive team through better meeting processes
As the new manager of your team, you’re probably raring to go. And you might think your first team meeting is the perfect time to start getting stuff done.
But first, slow down.
It might seem counterintuitive, but this initial meeting should be casual. Your first team meeting is an opportunity for you and your team to feel each other out.
Run through it too fast without getting to know each other, and you’ll pay for it. Because, it’s only in your first team meeting when you get to make an excellent first impression, establish trust, and set expectations.
In this post, you’ll learn how to establish the correct purpose of your first team meeting. Then you can grab our sample agenda to keep your meeting focused yet relaxed. To wrap up, we’ll provide a list of potential questions to ask and topics to cover in this critical initial meeting.
Let’s dive in.
As with any meeting, your first step is to establish the purpose of your meeting. While you don’t need to explicitly verbalize your purpose within the meeting, it’s essential to keep your goals in the front of your mind.
That way—without you actually saying it—it’s clear to your employees from the start that this first team meeting is about setting the stage for something bigger.
To do this, write down the following three goals for your meeting:
These are your marching orders. Resist the temptation to go beyond them. And remember: a good meeting is a focused meeting.
There will be plenty of time to work on specific action items once you’ve done a little bit of team building.
Just because your first team meeting is relaxed doesn’t mean you can go without an agenda. Below is a sample agenda you can use to keep your meeting on track.
Keep in mind that this agenda is a starting point. Without some further thought on your part, it’s not ready to share just yet. But you will want to make sure to circulate this agenda once you finalize it.
To help you fill in the blanks on this agenda, the next few sections will walk through a few different categories of questions you might ask in your first team meeting.
The main point of an icebreaker is to inject some energy into the room. It gets people talking and makes it easier for people to participate. But for managers, icebreaker questions can do double duty as a way to learn what makes your employees tick.
Use one or more of the following questions as your icebreaker and pay close attention to the answers:
Once you’ve broken the ice and introduced yourself, you can transition into a more work-specific discussion about expectations.
The discussion in your first team meeting about expectations is the critical juncture where you should—as HBR recommends—start “Establishing how you want your team to work, not just what you want them to achieve.”
To set expectations, ask questions like:
It’s best to ask questions in your team meeting in a roundtable format, giving each individual a chance to answer the question.
You can use these questions as a springboard to discuss your expectations for how the team will work together. This means covering things during your first team meeting like:
Meeting cadence: When, where, and how often will the team, or individuals, meet.
Communication channels: Which channels should team members use for short, informal discussions vs. decision-making vs. brainstorming, etc.
Team values: What values should your team live and work by?
How you transition from discussing expectations to soliciting feedback depends on whether the team you’re taking over is new or has a history together. If you’re dealing with the latter case, you’ll want to dedicate a good chunk of time to asking for and listening to feedback.
If your team is new, you can still get feedback, but it’ll have to be more general. Either way, the following questions will help get you started:
Again, it’s best to roundtable these questions, so no one dominates the conversation.
Once you’ve covered one or more of these questions, make sure to leave some time for your team to ask you questions. You don’t want anyone to leave feeling confused or unclear about expectations.
Because there aren’t specific work tasks in your first meeting, it’s tempting to wrap up without clear action items. Resist that temptation.
Instead of wrapping up with a vague, “Let me know if you need anything,” lay out your next steps.
After all, the conclusion of your first team meeting is the perfect time to start scheduling one-on-ones with each member of your team. So let your team know that you’ll be scheduling time to meet with them individually.
During that one-on-one meeting, you can continue to build trust and tackle other important issues like when and how often you and each employee will meet.
Not only does this keep the momentum going, but it shows your team that you’re going to be proactive in seeking ways to help them succeed.
After that, it's onward to many more team meetings to come!
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