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Effective Team Meetings

No, not all team update meetings "should've been an email". No one reads those. Here's how you can revolutionize your general update meeting for a team of under 15 people.

And this post is for you if you've ever been in a general 'roundtable' status or update meeting that blows its scheduled time box by more than 1.5x the planned time, wasting the majority of everyone's time except for the most senior leader in the meeting.

Try this if you experience these types of meetings on a regular basis:

✅ Create a shared document with four columns: outcomes, what I learned, what's next, and one big riddle.

🧠 When the meeting begins, ask everyone to spend the first 10 minutes silently filling out the four columns for themselves for the time period under consideration - no more than 2-3 items in each box (and one big riddle is 1 item). No one should complete the activity before the meeting.

📖 Ask everyone to then read everyone else's contribution, visually flagging the topics they're interested in. If you want to be really fancy, give everyone a unique color or indicator so that you can see when multiple people want to talk about the same topic.

⏲ Use a timer to discuss each highlighted topic. Start with 2 minutes each. Repeat until you've covered the flagged topics or hit the end of your timebox. Schedule a dedicated meeting for the truly important things you didn't cover and, if it doesn't rise to that level of importance, congrats! You don't need a meeting for it.

You'll be astounded by how much value you get out of so little time and how many other meetings you eliminate, though it will feel clunky at the start (especially the silent writing and reading).

Here's why you conduct these types of meetings this way:

1. It makes the work of the entire group visible in under 10 minutes. People don't naturally think to make their work visible to their peers, which leads to all kinds of missed connections.

2. It allows people to actually slow down and think for a second amidst their frenetic day of context switching.

3. It creates a natural prioritization that is attuned to the group's needs, not just the leader's.

4. It creates excellent notes without any additional time spent writing things down. You can capture actions and decisions right in file. And, if you're a transparency superhero on a safe-ish team, you can even share the file with other team members who aren't in the meeting (if this is a leadership meeting, for example).

5. It connects the right people together to jointly solve problems without wasting everyone else's time in prolonged conversation.

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