3 Questions to Answer in EVERY Team Meeting
I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m sure many of you can relate to certain negative emotions I’ve felt about meetings in the past. For example, have any of you ever had any of these things pop into your head as you walked into a meeting?
- “I have more important things that I could be working on right now.”
- “We’ve talked about this same issue for several meetings in a row, but nothing ever gets decided.”
- “We’ve invited a lot of people to this meeting, and I think it’s just because we want to make them feel included. We’re really just sharing updates that could have more easily been shared via email.”
- “There’s no follow through on the decisions that we make in these meetings. Nothing’s any different as a result of the last one.”
I very vividly remember one specific Christmas planning meeting when I worked on a church staff. There were more than 20 people in the room. We were seated in a circle and we were talking about the logistics of the upcoming Christmas Eve service. And at one point, a person relatively close to me on one side of the circle was talking with another person on the opposite end of the circle. They were the only two people engaged in the conversation, and they were talking about something that was very specific to their two areas.
I remember thinking, “Why are we wasting everybody else’s time??”
Bad meetings are one of the biggest time-wasters on any team—but church staff teams seem particularly prone to meet and meet and meet to the end of reduced productivity for everyone.
This is a super-practical episode. And I trust Lance Witt. If he says these three questions will radically improve your team’s meetings, and by extension, your team’s overall productivity, it’s worth your time to start using them this week.
So, in this third episode in our series on building healthy and high-performing teams, Lance, our director of the Unstuck Teams process, joins Amy and me again to talk about:
- The 3 questions you have to answer in EVERY meeting to be able to say it was a productive use of time
- How when your Senior Leadership Team meets can actually affect your internal communication problems
- Redefining the win: Getting clear on the value of great discussions vs. clear decisions
- How to destroy staff morale… in a way many senior pastors do all the time without realizing it
- How to re-evaluate your meeting rhythms and length, and why you should consider a “meeting Sabbath” for your team
Leader Conversation Guide
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How Your Church Staff Can Build a Culture of Action & Get More Done
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Don’t let culture and performance issues get your church stuck in 2020.
On Monday, February 24 at 1pm EST, I will host Lance Witt, our director of Unstuck Teams, Crull Chambless, executive pastor at Harvest Church in Billings, MT, Bobby Kirchner, executive pastor at Big Valley Grace Community Church in Modesto, CA, and John Fuller, lead pastor at Prairie Lakes Church located across a few cities in Iowa, for a practical conversation on how your church staff can build a culture of action and get more done.
Spend an hour with us, and you can expect to gain more clarity and practical next steps to help you:
- Build a culture of action and accountability
- Give feedback and evaluate performance effectively
- Navigate necessary organizational restructuring, especially in seasons of rapid growth and/or with added campuses
Links & Resources from the Episode
- How to Develop High Impact Church Teams (Part 1)
- Defining DNA (Part 2)
- Balancing Leadership and Management (Part 4)
- [webinar replay] Get Your Church Staff Unstuck
- Meet Lance Witt, Our Unstuck Teams Director
- High Impact Teams by Lance Witt
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
- Bad Meetings: Why They’re Bad and How to Make them Better
- The Unstuck Teams Process
We’re scheduling 2020 Unstuck Teams engagements with churches now. Visit theunstuckgroup.com/teams to learn how it works and start a conversation with our team.
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Sean (00:02): Welcome to The Unstuck Church podcast, where each week we’re exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. Everyone wants to be more productive, and there’s an exploding industry of apps, journals, and resources that promise to help. But what if there were a few free and simple steps that can increase your team’s productivity by 30%? Today on the podcast, Tony, Amy, and Lance are going to share how you can. Before you listen, make sure you’ve got the show notes. You can get them every week in one email along with your leader conversation guide, weekly resources and access to our podcast resource archive. Go to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast to subscribe. You may also want to learn about the upcoming webinar on creating healthy and high performing teams on February 24th at 1:00 PM Eastern. Visit us at theunstuckgroup.com/webinar for more info. Now let’s join Tony, Amy and Lance for today’s conversation on how to increase your team’s productivity by 30%.
Amy (00:59): Today we’re continuing our series of conversations on creating both healthy and high performing teams. And once again, I’m joined by Tony Morgan and Lance Witt. And in this week’s episode, our goal is to help you, our listeners, increase your team’s productivity by 30%. Tony, do you think we have their attention?
Tony (01:18): You have my attention, at least, because I think I want that for my team too.
Amy (01:22): Oh, well I guess Lance, this one is on you then. Let me ask you the question. How on earth are we going to do that in our podcast today?
Lance (01:30): Oh, no problem. It’s going to be really simple. We should be done early. Actually, we’re going to talk about everyone’s favorite topic, which is meetings. You know, someone once said if you want to kill time, a meeting is a perfect weapon. And I know that every pastor, every church staff member listening is resonating with this because we all know the frustration of sitting in unproductive meetings that feel like a waste of time. We’ve all been in bad meetings, and after the meeting is done, we rush to our next appointment. But we rarely stop to really ask, Hey, was was that a good meeting? Did we actually make good decisions? Was that productive? And I remember, and I’m being really transparent here, in some of my more cynical moments when I was an executive pastor of Saddleback, and we had a meeting that went way long, had way too many people in it, and I would walk out of the room and in my head, I would add up how much salary we just spent on that meeting. I would think that was not a $2,000 meeting. That was a $20 meeting. And the data shows actually that there’s really pretty good reason for us to be frustrated. In fact, some studies show that the average professional loses 31 hours per month in unproductive meetings. I mean, wow, let that sink in. In some other research, The estimates are that 50% of the actual time in meetings is not productive. It ends up being wasted time. But in churches we get it. I mean, we’d like to just jettison all meetings, but we can’t. They’re an important part of how we get stuff done, how we move the ball down the field in accomplishing our vision. So I just want to say at the beginning of this, the problem isn’t meetings. The problem is bad meetings. So just think how much time could be saved and how much productivity could be increased if we could just figure out how to have more fruitful meetings.
Amy (03:35): Yeah. You know, I started my career, Lance, at the 3M company, think sandpaper, Post-it notes, all that. And the joke around our company was that 3M stood for meetings, meetings, and more meetings. Tony, I’m sure our listeners could give probably us an endless amount of reasons why they dread their meetings. Lance, you just mentioned some of those, but I’d actually love to hear your take. We were both nodding our heads simultaneously as Lance was talking. Why do you think meetings get such a bad rap?
Tony (04:07): Yeah. I can’t speak for everyone, but I have felt certain emotions in meetings in the past, and I’m going to share some of my emotions. Is that okay? For example, one of the emotions I’m feeling is, “I have more important things that I could be working on right now,” or another one has been, “We’ve talked about this same issue for several meetings in a row, but nothing ever gets decided.” That that’s a frustration I’ve experienced. Or as another example, “We’ve invited a lot of people to this meeting, and I think it’s just because we want to make them feel included, but we’re just sharing information updates that really could have more easily been shared through an email exchange” or another feeling of emotion that I’ve experienced is there’s just no follow through on the decisions that we do make. So for example, we made a decision in the last meeting, but now the follow through isn’t happening. Nothing’s any different as a result of that previous meeting. And I think the main reason for this is we’ve just never learned how to land meetings well.
Amy (05:17) Tony, when we were talking about this topic, you mentioned something about a Christmas Eve service meeting just for fun. Can you share that?
Tony (05:24): You’re going to make me relive the trauma of this, Amy? Yeah, so I won’t name names, but I remember very vividly this meeting. There were more than 20 people in the room. We were seated in a circle, and we were talking about the logistics of the upcoming Christmas Eve service. And at one point in the meeting, I remember there was a person relatively close to me on one side of the circle talking with another person on the opposite end of the circle. And both of these two people, they were only two people engaged in the conversation talking about something that was very specific to their two areas. And I’m just thinking, why are we wasting everybody else’s time? You should be talking about this, you know, offline. So it was just one example. And I know everybody listening can go back in their memory to a meeting that wasn’t very productive and really was a waste of time for everyone else. But I’m assuming Lance is going to bring all of the solutions today on how we can have good meetings, productive meetings. So I’m looking forward to the conversation.
Lance (06:35): Absolutely. Like I said, we’ll be done plenty early. Yeah, that’s so painful when you sit through, you know, poor meetings like that. So thanks for sharing that.
Amy (06:48): There’s a lot of things that go into effective meetings, but I actually want to take us, Tony, you mentioned just a few minutes ago that generally speaking, we don’t land meetings very well and maybe we could spend some time there, Lance, because in your book, High Impact Teams, you have several pages dedicated just to the questions every team should be asking in order to land their meeting well. So I think it’d be good for you to walk through those. What are the first questions and just tell us why they’re important.
Lance (07:18): Well, I have three critical questions and it really does flow out of my own journey of 1. Sitting through a lot of bad meetings and honestly leading probably a lot of bad meetings. So I’ll just confess that, but I think you have to answer these questions in order to have a really productive meeting. First off, I just want to say you’ve got to have enough time in the meeting to actually ask and answer these. You know, I travel a lot just like you and Tony do. And so we spend a lot of time on airplanes, and a lot of my life lessons and analogies come from flying. But here’s one thing I’ve learned. I’ve never been on a flight yet where the pilot neglected the landing. You know, it doesn’t matter how good the snacks were or what movies, you know, or how comfortable my seat was. If you blow the landing, nothing else really matters. And so I kind of a stake I put in the ground is that the most important part of any meeting is the landing. And by the way, the pilot doesn’t wait until it gets over the runway to think about the landing, right? He starts the descent many miles away from the airport. So when I’m leading a meeting and say it’s supposed to end at two o’clock, around 1:45 or so, I start trying to think how in the next 10 to 15 minutes am I going to land the meeting? And so in that last few minutes, I want to begin to ask these questions. And the first question I try to ask as I’m beginning to land the meeting is, “What did we decide?” Trying to make sure that we’re clear on what’s actually a decision and what is still a discussion. Because just like you guys, I’ve walked out of meetings thinking we had a decision, but everybody else still thought is was a discussion. And I went into execution mode and now all of a sudden, I’m just creating chaos in the organization. So I think to be really clear around what’s a decision, what’s still a discussion. And as I lead meetings, the other thing I was thinking about the other day, I find myself when I’m facilitating a meeting, really trying to push for clear decisions. I’m great with great discussion, but sometimes I’ll find myself saying, “Hey, do we need to circle this mountain again? Or can we actually land a decision now?” And so I think getting really clear around what are the actual decisions you’re making. And it’s really important I think to land that because if it’s an actual decision, now we can move into talking about action and execution. Another analogy I use sometimes is the difference between, in football, standing in a huddle and snapping the ball. While we’re standing in a huddle, we’re still just talking about options and what we could talk about or what decisions we could make. But man, once the ball is snapped, everybody better move into execution. So anyway, that’s the first question. What did we decide?
Amy (10:16): Excellent. Let’s keep going. What’s the second question and the importance behind it?
Lance (10:21): Yeah. The second question is, “Who needs to know what we decided?” I remember there’s this really famous saying from George Bernard Shaw when he said, “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has actually taken place.” And it’s so true. Communication is a perpetual problem in virtually every organization. And we know all too well that churches are not exempt from that. So people love to be in the know. They need to be in the know, especially when it’s going to impact their world and where their energy is going to go. So if you want to destroy staff morale, just let them find out about decisions you made through a weekend announcement on a Sunday morning service. I mean, I’ve been there, you guys have been there. You’re sitting there on a Sunday morning and the pastor announces something and you go, wow, that would’ve been really nice for me to know. And so when we communicate well though, it not only gets the necessary information into the hands of the right people, but it also communicates value to those people. We thought enough of them ahead of time to actually include them. And Patrick Lencioni kind of uses that word picture of cascading the information down through the organization. And again, we’re never going to solve this perfectly, but we could just do a lot better if we would stop and ask ourselves, “Who needs to know what we just decided in this meeting?”
Amy (11:47): Yeah, I remember a podcast, maybe a couple of years ago now, I think it was Andy Stanley’s leadership podcast, and Patrick Lencioni calls it cascading down, and I think he flipped it upside down. Like you actually have to push communication from the bottom up through your organization. It shows the effort, I thought, in a good word picture, like it’s not just going to trickle down to the right people. You’ve actually got to come up with a plan for how to communicate it through your organization. Do you have any insights, Lance, like how to best communicate what’s been decided?
Lance (12:18): Yeah, I do. And again, this isn’t rocket science, but I think first off, you just got to make sure everybody in the meeting who sits there is actually communicating to those they lead. So anybody who’s a direct report to them, they should feel the weight of the ownership of I’m going to make sure they get the word. And then I personally like putting things in writing. I think often when we just leave it up to our recollection of what we heard in the meeting, we’re going to miss some stuff. And so I think it lessens the chance for misunderstanding. But then here’s another issue. I think your meeting rhythm affects this. So I was just with a senior leadership team that they’ve decided to meet on Monday mornings for two and a half hours. And one reason they meet on Monday is so that they can walk out of there and communicate every key decision at the very beginning of the week. And it gives them a natural flow for how they’re going to let everybody know what’s going on. So I think even when you meet can impact the communication issue.
Amy (13:23): So what I hear from you is when a senior leadership team meets, they make some decisions. They all need to agree on what they’re going to be communicating and when, so that it can all kind of hit the organization at the same time. Is that right?
Lance (13:35): Yeah.
Amy (13:37): So the first question you said was what did we decide? Second was who needs to know what we decided? And finally, what’s the third question, Lance, and why is that important?
Lance (13:46): Yeah. The third question really is, “What are the key deliverables and who’s going to own it or who’s going to be responsible for the action steps?” Ultimately all ideas become work for somebody, and that somebody has to own it. And so when I’m writing down our key decisions, and we start talking about ownership, I like to have one name because when everybody owns it, nobody owns it. And I like to be clear on exactly what it is they’re going to be delivering. Doesn’t mean that we have to get into every detail. But at a high level, what are the one or two things that we’re really asking them to do? Is is to come back to us with a plan? Is it to, you know, survey their teams on something? What really is the kind of key deliverable that we’re looking for? And I think that that’s really helpful to be clear on that. And I think this one step alone, if we actually got clear on what our decisions are, who owns it and what is it they’re delivering, that would automatically increase the productivity of our meetings.
Amy (14:50): All right, well, Tony, today we focused on the landing, but do you have any final thoughts before we wrap up?
Tony (14:55): Yeah, I mean this is just great advice from Lance on how our meetings can be more effective and to take advantage of that will be a good thing. But I do want to go back. My wife, Emily, used to joke. I think she would look at my calendar for a week when I was in a full-time ministry, and she said, “You’re not doing ministry, you’re actually just doing meetings all the time.” So I do want to go back to the thought of, first of all, there’s nothing in the Bible that says if we have a team meeting that it has to happen every week. And I think it’d be good just to acknowledge maybe this can be an every other week or every month meeting, but sometimes meetings don’t have to be every week. And there’s nothing in the Bible that says a meeting has to go a full hour. Maybe it’s a 45 minute meeting, maybe it’s a 30 minute meeting. But the other thing I’ve encouraged church teams to consider is this, what would it look like if we had a Sabbath day during the week, during the work week where we don’t have meetings? So a Sabbath from meetings to allow us really to focus on the ministry that we’re engaging and also to make sure we’re following through on the things that we decided in our previous meetings. So those are my thoughts, but maybe pruning meetings is a good thing. If you have the meeting, make sure you’re following Lance’s advice around these three critical questions.
Sean (16:19): Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. Don’t forget to register for the upcoming Unstuck Teams webinar on February 24th at 1:00 PM Eastern. To learn more and sign up, go to the unstuckgroup.com/webinar. If you’d like to explore more about how the Unstuck Teams process could benefit your church, visit us at theunstuckgroup.com/teams. Next week, we’re back with another brand new episode. Until then, have a great week.