Having to schedule time for team collaboration is no easy task for team leaders.
On one hand, you want to cause as little interruption as possible in your team members’ work time. On the other, you want to schedule it at a time of the day and week when people are receptive and creative.
And when 19% of workers say their time at the office is wasted with too many meetings, you know you’re walking a thin line.
Team collaboration is the cornerstone of a healthy business. Last year, Marissa Mayer put an end to telecommuting at Yahoo! exactly because of this. Mayer’s goal in doing so was to boost collaboration and innovation, which she believes can only be achieved through face to face interaction.
But of course, you don’t necessarily need to bring all your team members together in one physical space in order to have team collaboration. Plenty of remote teams can write textbooks on successful collaboration. So how do effective teams - remote or not - schedule time for collaboration?
Finding the right time for collaboration
This is probably the trickiest part. There is no science to it, and as a team leader you should know your team well enough to figure out what works best for them.
Generally, Mondays and Fridays are the least productive times of the week. People’s minds are either on the weekend that passed, or on the weekend ahead. Chances are it’s better for your team to focus on their everyday tasks at the beginning and end of the week.
Tuesday seems to be your best bet for collaborative time. A 2012 study by meeting scheduling service When is Good indicates that the best time to have a meeting is on Tuesdays at 3 pm. Of course, this is not written in stone, but it gives a good indication when people might be most receptive.
You might also want to see how mid-mornings work for your team. Usually, mid-mornings allow team members to settle in and come prepared to the meeting, which will result in a more engaged interaction.
If your company has flexible start and end times, try to stick with the middle of the day, when everybody is at the office. Meetings that are not accommodating of all the involved team members will directly conflict with the idea of flexible hours. You can even consider lunch meetings.
If your team works remotely, especially across several time zones, you will be more limited in your scheduling options. In fact, it will just take a little bit more thought and knowing your individual team members, because inevitably you will have to schedule a meeting at the beginning of someone’s day or at the end of someone else’s day.
Know when your individual team members are more likely to be engaged. And don’t underestimate the power of face-to-face time. Try to include it as often as possible.
Set a specific duration for the meeting
The reason many meetings become a waste of time is because they go longer than they should. Set a specific duration for the meeting, whether it’s 20 minutes or an hour. Of course, you don’t need to use up the whole time of the meeting if you wrap up earlier. But if you find your time is up, it might be a sign that you need to schedule another time for relevant parties to continue their discussion.
Keep your eyes on the goal
Each meeting should have a specific goal, and you should moderate your team toward reaching that goal. Whether your goal is simple information sharing or solving a specific problem, make sure you keep your goal in mind at all times. Again, if you don’t have a defined goal, this team time will be wasted.
If your team is deviating from the goal and gravitating toward other subjects, it might be a sign for you that there are other issues that need to be discussed. Take a step back and consider whether there is something else that you should be focusing on.
Morning team huddles
Collaborative time will go smoother if everyone is already on the same page. Consider having daily team huddles with your team members, where you discuss the results of what they have been doing, issues that came up, and/or things that they plan on doing. The focus of a morning huddle should be information sharing, not problem solving.
During your daily (or weekly, whatever works best for your team) huddles, you will see collaboration flourish. You will often find team members scheduling time to solve a problem together during these huddles, without your input.
Collaborative time, if scheduled and executed the right way, will be very rewarding both for your team members and the business. There is no formula for meetings, so it’s up to you to experiment and tweak a process for your team.
If you’ve found a way to do meetings that works well for your team, share your experience with us and our readers in the comments below!