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Feb 25, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

A few years back I wrote an article called Stop Having Status Meetings! 5 Better Things to do Instead.

Status updates squander time that could be spent using your team as a team. At the bottom of that article I mentioned 11 things to do instead of reporting status.

Now, I want to use this article to elaborate on these 11 things.

Discussion to drive the business forward

Getting your team together offers a precious opportunity to focus the team energy on great discussions that will drive the business forward.

Learn what people really think. Have debates. As a leader you need these conversations to make you smarter and to inform which direction you should be taking the team and the business.

Here are 11 ideas of great things you can do with staff meeting time.

This list is by no means exhaustive. There are just some ideas to get you thinking about higher value conversations you can have with your team.

1. What are the key outcomes we are on the hook for?

How will we know if we are achieving them?

It’s really worth putting this question of key outcomes out there, and aligning on both the list and what the measures are. You will be surprised how many different opinions will exist if you haven’t had this discussion already.

Different opinions on what is important and how we measure it = low productivity.

2. What are the risks we face?

What should we do about them?

Everyone has a different risk profile. You will find that some people are afraid of everything and others are afraid of nothing.

You’ll get critical insights on how you need to manage the individuals on your team, and you may even learn about an important risk that you didn’t see before.

3. What data do we wish we knew about our business?

Is it knowable? How will we find it? If it is not knowable, what scenarios should we plan for?

I can tell you I made this mistake every which way for years, wishing I had data that actually was knowable, or guessing at answers that were not knowable.

Make the list with your team. Get the data you can get and make explicit plans for what you will all agree to do when there is no data.

4. What stupid stuff are we doing?

I would have this as a staff topic at least twice a year. Grit always creeps into the gears, and old habits lose their usefulness.

Question them.

This one never ceases to pay off. All the annoying, time wasting stuff creeps into the environment and teams just accept that as the new reality.

Once or twice a year, talking about this gives people the permission to raise issues, and then as a team you can decide which ones to fix. Productivity always improves after this meeting.

5. What has changed?

Ask what has changed in our market, business, or customers’ markets and businesses? What does that mean for our plans?

Here again, you will find that some people care deeply and know a lot, and others are happy to just keep their head down plowing away at their former job descriptions.

Find out. Discuss. Drive important change.

6. What improvements can we make?

What process or infrastructure improvement would have the biggest impact on our ability to deliver?

This one is also a winner to crowdsource. As the manager you are responsible for making improvements and increasing the capacity and capability of your team over time. But you don’t have to think of all the answers yourself.

This question is actually important to ask everyone in the organization, not just your direct reports.

7. What has become harder or easier in our work and business?

What should we consider changing?

At the pace technology and communication changes, something is harder or easier in your business than it was before.

If competition or margins have become harder, shine the spotlight on it, and discuss it as a team. If other advances have made things easier, don’t miss it.

Don’t keep doing things the same old, slow, hard way because you never paused to think and talk about it.

8. What should we all be learning?

What should we learn this year in addition to our core work? What do we want to be better at, or smarter about next year?

Elevate the discussion about what we should be all be doing (in addition to our day job) to improve. Make it clear that getting better at the job is only part of the job.

Everyone should have goals to improve, and your team should be focused on “something we all need to learn or get better at” at any given point in time.

9. Who should we thank?

Who in our organization has done something remarkable that we should recognize?

I find that if you don’t have this discussion at your regular staff meeting, all kinds of great things happen in your organization and they go unseen and therefore un-thanked. Not recognizing exceptional efforts destroys trust.

Talk about this so you don’t miss it!

10. Who are the stars?

Who are the stars in our organization that we should be investing in developing?

Always have a short list of high potential people who should be getting extra exposure, bigger challenges, and introductions to mentors.

One of the best things you can do as a leader is to grow stars in your organization. It’s good for them, for you, and for the company, and ultimately for the world!

11. What is our team brand?

Who/what groups should our team be communicating, networking, or improving our brand with? How should we do it?

This is a topic that always brings a lot of energy when I work with clients on executive team building. What is your team brand? What do you want it to be? Who are the groups that your team serves? How do they perceive you? How do you need them to perceive you?

Getting alignment and an action plan on how your team is perceived is critical to building credibility and support throughout your company, and maybe also with clients or partners, for what your team does.

Good luck!

This was originally published on Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership Blog. Her latest book is Rise: How to be Really Successful at Work and LIKE Your Life.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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