Almost 2 weeks ago, I discussed team briefings and the importance of communications in the process. But I really didn’t take the time to address the mechanics of conducting a valuable team briefing. So, today, let’s focus on that.
Create the Environment
As the leader, you must establish the proper environment. Think about the environment you want to create for these briefings. It doesn’t necessarily be a super-formal environment. But, it just needs to be a positive environment. People must understand what to expect when they attend one of your team briefings. Here are a few things that make for a good environment:
- Ensure that you understand what is going on in the organization and that you have been properly briefed yourself. Make sure your team leaders know what’s happening at various levels, and with various other teams, throughout the organization.
- Provide training or coaching on how to conduct effective team briefings.
- Recognize and reward supervisors and managers for conducting effective team briefings.
- Brevity is the soul of wit. If you can’t say it in 15 to 30 minutes, then a team briefing is not the right vehicle for a more complex message.
Have a Structure and a Process
As the leader, you must commit to a structure and a process. You have invited the team and they are gathered for information sharing. Make sure you have a structure and a process in place that leaves time after you share in order for them to have an opportunity to ask questions and express their views.
- Schedule a regular meeting time. Predictability is a key to effectiveness. The team shouldn’t have to wonder if we are meeting this week.
- Make sure no one is left out of the invitation to the briefing. If certain people can’t attend in person, find a way to include them in the process through a conference call or through a quick email report out of the briefing.
- Start on time. End on time. It has been my motto over the years that I will not punish the on-time for the sins of the late. So, I start on time.
- Stress the importance of being open, honest, and polite.
- Discuss only the relevant topic. Discuss one topic at a time.
- Avoid side-meetings breaking out during the briefing.
Determine the Objectives
As the leader, you must determine the objectives. You have only a short time to communicate information, so you must be clear about what needs to be accomplished. Ask yourself these questions to help clarify the message and goal for the meeting.
- What is the key message that I need to deliver and discuss with the team?
- What does the team already know?
- What information is the team missing?
- What background information does the team need?
- What actions do you expect from the team, and individual team members, as a result?
- How much direction do you need to provide?
- When do these actions need to be done?
- How will team members know they were successful?
- What action items from the last meeting need to be confirmed as complete?
- Do team members need to prepare information in advance of the meeting?
As the leader, you must prepare the information. Team briefings usually follow a simple pattern. Although any given briefing may not contain every element. These are the typical elements — the leader delivers the information, the attendees ask questions and get clarification, old tasks are updated, new tasks are assigned, and the leader (or someone) summarizes the meeting, including information gathered through questioning and feedback. Preparation is the key to a successful team briefing.
- Communicate the organization’s progress and performance since the last briefing.
- Give updates on changes. Discuss policies and procedures that have been introduced or changed and how they impact the team.
- Discuss personnel issues. Address issues related to staffing or people within the organization. However, this is not the time or the place for disciplinary actions. The old maxim remains true – “Reward in public and rebuke in private.” This is the place to announce new hires, transfers, promotions, retirements, etc.
- Clarify action items. Describe the priorities for the next time period at a team and organizational level.
Deliver the Information
As the leader, you must deliver the information When you present your briefing, follow these tips to make sure the team understands the message and what they need to do as a result. Remember from my earlier article — It is sender – receiver – and feedback. Feedback is vital for a successful briefing.
- Choose your presentation method. Think about how your team learns best, and prepare your briefing to take advantage of that.
- Keep it interesting. Use language and examples that people will relate to.
- Remain positive. No matter what type of message you deliver, emphasize the positive elements while being truthful.
- Own the message. Don’t try to distance yourself from the information you present.
- Humor often helps. Especially when delivering a difficult message.
- Encourage questions. Share information as openly as you can, and acknowledge concerns that people may have. Don’t hide from the obvious questions that you know will surface at the meeting.
- Summarize the main points. Include the current status, any decisions that were made, and agreed-upon next steps.
As the leader, you must follow up. Don’t leave the follow-up to the next meeting. Use the briefings as a way to improve overall communication, trust, and commitment within the team. But follow the meeting with written minutes or a summary. Then, spend the next hour walking around and making sure the team got the message that you thought you were delivering.
- Reinforce the message. Think about ways to strengthen the message, perhaps through email, intranet, or company bulletins/newsletters.
- Review the feedback that you received. Consider the feedback you received in the briefing, and use it to improve your management and leadership style.
- Discuss any issues that arose at the meeting with your boss. Communicate to your boss information about what was asked, what your team was most concerned about, and any questions you were unable to answer.
- Distribute briefing material to absentees. They may have missed the meeting for legitimate reasons. Don’t take it personally. Ensure that those who weren’t able to attend the meeting receive important information.
And here is one little bonus tidbit for meetings in general. Many times I have opened a meeting that has the potential for misunderstanding and conflict with the following statement: “Here is the meeting that I think that I am about to have. Is that the meeting that you think you are here for?” The grammar may not be perfect, but it often assures that we are all starting off with similar expectations.
How are your meeting skills these days? What are the meetings like that you have to attend most often? Share some examples with us if you dare!