Can’t live with them, can’t live without them! Teams have meetings and it’s a fact of daily work life. Bringing team members up to date so they can plan their work and establish priorities is important and necessary…so is making sure you’re having a real conversation.

I promise this post won’t be about how to hold a better team meeting. It is about making conversation happen during the meeting because unfortunately most meetings have no real conversation at all.

The 1 crucial difference between meetings and conversations

A Meeting = Forum for divulging information (sometimes ad nauseam). More often than not, the obligatory conversations that follow only skim the surface.  What’s missing is much-needed momentum.

Conversations during meetings = Opportunities for addressing important team concerns before they snow-ball.

Some say water is to fish what conversations are to humans. Conversations help us make sense of our world by addressing questions important to us:  What does this mean? Who will I be working with once the dust settles? What is our vision? Do I have a future here?

What happens when we don’t get answers to questions asked during meetings? We make them up in the lunchroom, in the coffee shop, in the corridors. In the absence of real conversations… we hold them anyway, creating more confusion.

Having conversations means keeping it real

Having conversations means striving to be as ‘real’ as possible in your communications during meetings. By all means, do cover your technical topics. At the same time, people also need to understand where they fit in and where they can have an impact.

Remember: Any problems around processes can be solved with the intelligence around the table, but will team members collaborate if they’re anxious about their roles or relationships? Not likely.

7 best practices for creating real conversations during team meetings

Here are some best practices successfully used by my client organizations to make real conversations a habit during meetings:

1 – Put the people issues on the table at each meeting. What are we proud of? What are we scratching our heads about? What questions do we have for each other? What support do we need from each other?

2 – Have team members, not just leaders present information. Team members tend to enter more easily into conversation mode with each other. The tone will be less formal and the issues addressed more directly for a more rapid resolution.

3 – Keep the groups small. Large groups are intimidating. Most participants keep their masks on. If you have to hold a large meeting, break up the large group in smaller conversations pods.

4 – Make space for questions every time you present information. Questions are the important precursors to conversations, a way for participants to test the waters. How you answer those questions is critical to opening or closing the conversation. Be genuine in sharing what you know and be honest about what you don’t know.

5 – Acknowledge what team members are saying. You may not like what you’re hearing, but you need to receive the information before you respond to it. When you do….

6 – Avoid getting defensive. Defensiveness stops conversations, period.

7 – Schedule a time at the end of each meeting to debrief: “what went well” or “what was most helpful” and “what would be even better if” or “what do you suggest for next time”. Those questions invite participants to make future meetings relevant for them. They start to have skin in the game and show up in more genuine ways.

Next time you are planning to hold a meeting, think of all the ways you can engage your team members in a real conversation.

I’m looking forward to hearing more about your experiences with having real conversations during meetings.

For executive coaching with Dominique email
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1 thought on “How to create real conversations during team meetings”

  1. I really appreciate your thoughts and ideas posed here, Dominique. Item one’s questions are some which I believe are applicable to all areas of life. Respectfully attending to professional and business endeavours, through questions relevant to context, provides a gateway to living a more meaningful and fun life. When meaning and fun find traction in real conversations AND generalize across all aspects of living, magic can’t not happen! Your questions ignite the safety to BE oneself and to SPEAK one’s truth… the essentials of establishing and sustaining rapport. How does it get any better than this?!

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