Quick tips for making all-hands meetings tolerable and useful

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My recent articles discuss how all-team meetings (or “group meetings” or “all-hands meetings”) are essentially risky endeavors for group leaders (here and here).  So here are some tips on how to mitigate the risks:

1.     Don’t make the meetings mandatory

If you have to make a meeting mandatory, it is a sign that something is not compelling about your meeting.  Call meetings that people want to attend.  As a corollary to this, try not to have your lower level management team spend time in their team meetings talking about why it is mandatory and why people need to attend.  Instead, they should talk about what team members are expected to get out of the (preferably) non-mandatory meeting.  Read on for what that might be. . .

2.     Stick to the strategy

People want to hear what the strategy is.  The strategy should be stated, and discussed.  When getting everyone together, the main objective should be getting the full team on board to understand the group or company strategy.  Anything other than the strategy is, to a certain degree, specific execution, and probably isn’t appropriate at the “all-group” or “all-hands” meeting level.

3.     Review the key performance indicators, and performance against these

As part of the strategy, look at your key performance indicators, and show that this is what the management team is looking at.  Avoid showing stress at the metrics that are lower than target. Instead, discuss how you are going to support improving not only the underperforming metrics, but further accelerate the metrics that are above target.

4.     Stop there.

This makes the all-team meeting short and sweet.  It shows level that the layer of management running the meeting the strategic level at which they are working.  If there isn’t much content beyond looking at the strategy and the key performance indicators, then the meeting can be short and sweet.  Your greater team will thank you that you haven’t taken more time out of their work.

5.     Don’t mistake “Q&A” with “interactive” 

Many managers leading all-hands meetings say that they want the session to be “interactive.”  This often means that there is a question an answer session after the presentation.  This isn’t interactive, since the vast majority of the attendees aren’t interacting during the Q&A session.  It’s a Q&A session, not interactivity.  Meeting leaders can budget time in for Q&A, but know that it doesn’t create the impression of openness and interactivity to leadership.  Instead, it shows that leadership is implying that their interactions with the larger group is limited to all-team meeting Q&A sessions.

6.     Have the team work together to solve a problem or generate ideas

Many managers want their all-team meetings to be “interactive.”  They also want the members of the larger team to “get to know each other.”  Many times they’ll have post-meeting receptions, or require that people introduce each other during the all-team meeting.  These actions rarely create lasting connections.

Instead, here is a way to create interactivity that is more meaningful:

Break up the larger session into groups of 4-6 people.  Now issue a challenge with a time limit – what can we do to better execute this strategy? Improve this key performance indicator?  Improve the work environment?  What areas are we not investing in, but you think we should?

In short, find a problem that the leadership team wants solved, and then put the larger team to work to solve it.  Have the teams document the results, and have them delivered to the meeting leaders.  The leaders (or the groups) can then share them back to the larger group or a few other groups.

The meeting leaders now have tons of ideas related to their strategic concerns, and with tons of problem-solving brainpower.  And it was interactive, work related and a more meaningful use of time.   I would consider this a little bit better than introducing each other or having a post-meeting party.

OK, follow these tips for all-hands meetings, and you’ve increased the chances that the all-team meeting is useful, relevant and meaningful to the attendees, and the meetings will probably be a lot shorter and cost less.  Not bad!

Related articles:

Do your all-team meetings make your team cringe?

Reasons many employees dread all-team meetings




If you’re the manager, it’s your job not to act surprised



Nine simple tips to make meetings more compelling


More reasons mandatory meetings are bad for you and bad for your team


Making it a mandatory meeting sabotages the meeting


More reasons mandatory meetings are bad for you and bad for your team


The first step to getting out of the mandatory meeting cycle: Don’t call meetings if you were planning one-way communication


Managers behaving badly: Training the team not to report bad news

What to do when you see a status or metric as “Red”



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About Walter Oelwein
Walter Oelwein, CMC, CPT, helps managers become better at managing. To do this, he founded Business Performance Consulting, LLC .


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