Getting your team rowing together in sync and in the right direction requires regular and frequent communication. So where is the best place and when is the best time to communicate your plans and goals with your team? You might be thinking, at a meeting of course! But isn’t it true that we often have an aversion to meetings? They can often seem unproductive or in the worst case, counterproductive. Why is this true?
Well, meetings are really about communication—communication that has a purpose of getting everyone on the same page and getting things accomplished. Meetings should be about planning as a team to pursue strategies together that lead to results that align with your agency’s vision and mission. They should also be a place to review your progress toward your goals.
Have you ever experienced this scenario in a meeting? You prepare a new idea carefully, email an agenda in advance to your team, and arrive to the meeting to share your big idea. Looking around you see some in the room with crossed arms, vacant stares, and a detractor or two with questions challenging every aspect of your presentation. Why the indifference, negativity, and resistance? After all, your intentions were to share plans to take positive steps together toward the future growth and improvement of your agency. Your momentum stalls, you feel deflated, and you experience a lack of buy-in or even an outright rejection of your strategies. In some cases, if your presentation was to agency leadership, you may have felt that they had already made up their minds in advance to quash your plans.
Perhaps you were in the wrong meeting?
John Maxwell shares that the secret to a good meeting is found in “the meeting before the meeting.” This is because when you share your goals and plans in a scheduled meeting, not everyone instantly understands or is immediately open to your new ideas. Dropping it on them like a bomb in a meeting might not be the most effective way of achieving the reaction you desire and the support you’re looking for. Communicating informally with your team and especially the key influencers in your organization prior to regular meetings is most likely the solution to your dilemma.
Here are some of the benefits you’ll find when you invest in carving out more pre-meeting time for these vital interactions:
You will clarify obscurity — Some people might have a glazed look in their eyes or get defensive in a meeting, because the ideas you are presenting are unclear or present obstacles that don’t seem surmountable. By addressing these challenges informally in advance with individuals, you’ll have the opportunity to explain and overcome some of the perceived difficulties or misunderstandings that can exist. In the end, you may succeed by giving them a new perspective different from their own and win them over.
You will sharpen your ideas — Presenting your ideas to a variety of people with different personalities, gifts, perspectives, and even objections will help you to sharpen and strengthen your plans with their input. Ask questions, listen to answers, and work to integrate their feedback beforehand. Your greatest opponents might actually become the key to your success if you overcome their concerns in advance, win some of them over to your position, make modifications when needed to improve your proposal, or even at the very least, know where they stand prior to your team meeting. While you may not always earn everyone’s support, pushback and criticism can be a valuable part of shoring up the weak points in your plans as you listen to others.
You will develop deeper trust — When people realize that you want to include them in the process of goal setting and strategizing by discussing plans in advance, answering questions, clarifying confusion, and even sharing your motives for change, they will have more appreciation for your leadership and respect for your attempt to build consensus. Sharing your motives might even be the biggest part of cultivating deeper trust. Ask yourself, how will this new idea benefit our clients? How will it benefit our team? How will it benefit the agency overall? If you can find a win-win-win for everyone, people will learn that your focus in on pursuing goals with a big and holistic picture in mind.
You will receive stronger buy-in — The back-and-forth of idea sharing in a more informal setting gives people time to process change through discussion in a less threatening environment. Coupling this with one-on-one time that values opinions and seeks additional input can lead to deeper buy-in where people can feel they have more of a stake in your goals. After building toward this together, ask people specifically, “do I have your support?” It will give you a direct and clear answer while also possibly revealing additional challenges to overcome. People will typically appreciate being asked to personally support your plans.
You will increase your influence — People grow to respect others who prove through words and actions that they view the whole as the sum of its valuable parts. What better way is there to build consensus than with pre-meeting planning that seeks to clarify confusion, sharpen ideas with the input of others, and build trust for stronger buy-in? With a pre-meeting approach to your larger scheduled meetings, you’ll see a measurable increase in your influence through stronger relationships and a respect for your inclusive approach.
In our experience at Agency Performance Partners, the majority of agencies share with us through our Agency Assessments that they meet with their teams monthly, annually, or “as needed.” The translation of “as needed” typically means, “whenever there’s a problem.” If you’re only communicating infrequently or when problems arise, you’ll never be able to clarify your agency vision, goals, and strategies effectively with your team. One of the major secrets to achieving your goals is found in regular and frequent communication. Use the “meeting before the meeting” to make time for the informal contact needed to gather helpful feedback, build relationships, deepen trust, sharpen your position, and test your strategies with those who you’ll need to help execute the plan. This way, when the team meeting happens, you have the best chance of presenting a well thought out idea while receiving the most support.
An Agency Assessment with Agency Performance Partners always starts with a thorough anonymous virtual survey of your team to open the door to communication at all levels within your agency. The goal is to gather feedback from everyone as we work together to identify untapped opportunities and obstacles to improved performance. Reach out today to learn more!