As I watched my daughter’s preschool teacher get eighteen four-year-olds to quiet down, listen, and participate in a project, I was amazed. I was also totally embarrassed because she had better control of her class than I have of my own team meetings. A quick study of her control techniques made me realize that I need to adopt these for my team meetings.
It isn’t rocket science to know that having a plan gives you a better chance of achieving your goal. Heck, it’s what project planning is all about; too bad that half my meetings don’t have agendas (unless you count the title on the meeting invite an agenda).
Lesson One: Use agendas to define what we will accomplish in a meeting.
Finger in the Air
No, not the middle finger, as that would be rude, but my daughter’s daycare teacher says “finger in the air” meaning stop whatever you are doing, shut up, stick your finger in the air and look at me. What a great way to stop meeting discussions that get derailed.
Lesson Two: Establish some verbal cue that means stop discussion during a meeting so we can regroup and refocus.
Every day her class gets together in a circle to focus on a particular topic. She does a brief introduction, and then they are off on a discussion. It is a controlled discussion where the floor is passed from one child to another through the use of a talking stick.
Lesson Three: Establish a way that during meetings a speaker can be identified, and when they are done talking, they can hand the floor to someone else.
Show and Tell
What kid doesn’t love bringing in some cool new toy or dead bug (in my daughter’s case) and having all eyes on them as they explain this fascinating thing? It’s a great time for each person to share, and it allows the class to get to know each other and what interests them (in my daughter’s case her peers probably think she is nuts as her show and tell items go from Disney princesses to dead bugs). In the virtual world it’s hard to establish team collaboration and an understanding of your team members. Consider a show and tell moment each status meeting where team members can introduce themselves and share with everyone else.
Lesson Four: By providing something like a picture of themselves (so we know who’s connected to that voice on the phone) and a bit of information on our interests, we can create a sense of team community and encourage collaboration.