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Team Discipline in Meetings
 

Encourage and use team discipline

Why have a disciplined approach to team working?

It is more effective and more enjoyable

Everyone knows what they are trying to do

You get great satisfaction from working together well and getting a result

How do you create and sustain team discipline?

Talk about how you can work together best before and when you meet

Agree some rules about how you will work together

Everybody takes responsibility for what happens, not just the team leader

Arrive on time, be honest, do what you agree to do and never pretend to agree if you do not

Listen carefully to what others say. Even if you disagree, they may have a point

Structure of an effective team meeting

Why have a structure?

People know what you expect and therefore what they need to do to contribute

A logical structure is more likely to lead to a constructive outcome

If the structure is appropriate for the task, the work of the team will be effective and efficient

If the structure is clear, the meeting is much easier to manage than when it is confused

Team meetings with a clear structure are more rewarding for participants and less frustrating

How do you structure a meeting?

o Using a systematic approach

First, discuss what you are trying to achieve in your meeting, or agenda item. It is very worthwhile to make sure your aims or objectives are very clear and everyone understands them.

Second, everyone shares the ideas and information they have that will help you achieve your aims. This can be informal, but make sure everyone has the chance to contribute and listen to each other.

Third, discuss and decide what has to be done to achieve your aim.

Fourth, make a plan that says who will do what and when.

Then you act, though this will often be outside the meeting.

Finally, you review to discover what has worked and what needs further work. You also review how you have worked together to learn what worked and how to work together even better next time

Ralph Coverdale developed this Systematic Approach. He observed what very effective teams did when they worked on tasks. The italics above are the words he used for the stages. This systematic approach is one of many but it does work well and is both simple and flexible.

o Use an effective process

"Process" is how you work together.

You may need different processes according to the stage you are at in the meeting.

Effective leaders make proposals, but listen to people's response and build on them. Proposals about process are valuable.

One very effective process at the aims and information stage is to go around the group and ask people for their best thinking. Give people equal time to contribute while everyone else just listens attentively.

If the process is not working, anyone can say so and make a proposal of a better one. You can often make progress if you are stuck by asking people to form pairs or small groups, think a bit and come back with some ideas to take the meeting forward.

Spend time thinking about how you are working together and how to improve this. You can put "the meeting" on the agenda, if you want.

Use some simple skills

Why do we need skills?

Many people say most meetings are a bit of a waste of time and find them frustrating. Skilled people can have skilled meetings.

Meeting skills can help people produce more together and at a higher quality than they could ever do separately.

The skills that help you work together effectively as a team are the same skills you need to work effectively with customers, suppliers and the rest of the organisation. Learning them together is safe and using them together reinforces them.

How can we learn these skills?

You can learn by watching people who have good meetings or who help meetings go well. What do they do?

You can try things out for yourself and see what works.

You can discuss how you work with others with your colleagues and ask them for their ideas.

What are the most important skills?

o Listening

o Supporting

o Confronting

o Brainstorming

Why is listening so important?

Listening encourages people to speak and give of their best

If you listen you may learn something important and valuable that will help you and the group

When people listen to each other they build confidence, connection and mutual respect

You can build on each others ideas and not lose any if you listen well

How can you listen well in a team?

Decide to do it as well as you are able, this will help you know what to do.

When you listen, look warmly at the person. The person may look away as she talks, but will want you to be looking towards her when she finishes and turns back to you.

Encourage everyone in the group to listen to each other. Stop people interrupting or talking over each other. Use a simple "go around the group" structure to encourage participation.

Don't fidget, interrupt or distract. Don't pay too much attention to what the conversation stirs up in you.

Summarize at intervals to check you have understood what the person has said and the feelings underlying it.

Summarize at intervals to check you have understood the collective views of the people in the meeting about the subject and any disagreements.

Ask a few gentle open questions, to encourage conversation. You can't answer an open question with "Yes" or No". You can try "What do you think?" or "What could we do to make progress on this?" for example.

Why is supporting important?

When people feel supported, they feel safe to participate.

A supportive atmosphere helps people want to work together.

Support helps people take the risks involved in producing new ideas or viewpoints.

How can you support each other in your team?

Have a clear structure and agreed objectives so everyone knows what they are doing.

Actively listen to and gently involve everyone, particularly shy or reflective people. They often have the best ideas.

Work as informally as you can so people feel relaxed.

Talk to each other between meetings.

Get to know each other personally, so you feel a human as well as a work connection.

Show your appreciation of good ideas or helpful processes.

Why is confronting important?

Sometimes things don't work. It is usually more helpful to confront (face) these situations directly than ignore them.

Confronting issues is always interesting and can be enjoyable. It may be possible to get a creative solution by holding the tension between points of view and seeking a solution that is better than either.

Confronting and resolving important conflicts between people or groups can lead to deeper understanding and trust than easily happens in relationships that have not been tested this way.

How can you confront effectively and with caring?

When your team meeting is stuck, and people are frustrated and a bit angry, then say so. If you make this a personal statement, "I am feeling stuck and wonder if other people feel the same" then it will be more effective than being critical.

You may need to confront other issues like a low energy "agreement" to do something or people dominating or opting out of meetings also. Again, if you make personal statements about what you see or feel you will be more effective than attacking. This will produce a defensive or attacking reaction.

If people are arguing and the argument is not moving towards a resolution, it is very likely that people are not listening to each other. You can ask each party to put the other parties point of view, check that this is right and correct it if it is not. In most cases, the argument will fall away.

Why is brainstorming important?

Brainstorming is a simple way to get lots of ideas from a group.

It helps people feel safe, as they know people will listen to their ideas and not laugh at them.

It increases the chances of a breakthrough on knotty problems.

It is a simple structure for generating and evaluating ideas. It works because you do these separately.

How do you do brainstorming?

Decide on the question you want to answer.

Collect a group of people to work on it. You may want to include people who know very little about the topic as well as experts.

Sometimes "nave" people produce interesting ideas and viewpoints. Experts can be stuck in their thinking!

Explain the rules of the brainstorming process carefully. These are, show interest and support at the idea generation change only. Talk about which are the best and most useful ideas later.

Talk about the question together. Consider different points of view and perspectives, this may lead you into new ways of thinking. Turn the issue on its head.

Each person then thinks quietly and writes down his or her ideas for a few minutes.

One person writes the ideas accurately and without editing on a chart. (Alternatively people can write their own ideas on large "post its" and stick them on the wall).

The participants look at the ideas and list additional ones that they stimulate.

Everyone looks at the list and chooses the top five (say) that are the most promising. Display the votes to give the views of the group.

Then move into a normal meeting to consider how you will progress the most promising ideas you have chosen. The systematic approach structure will work well here.

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