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Huddle up each morning

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In a previous series for SmartBrief, I laid out my five-step productivity process for leaders, which I then turned into a Productivity Blueprint. This post is the first to dive deeper into the second of his five steps, sharing for maximal productivity.

Have you ever shopped at a retail store at opening and passed by a group of employees all huddled together in the back or in one of the aisles? Or come a bit early for your first-of-the-day dentist appointment and found the place empty, only to hear some lively conversation going on in the back office?

If this happened to you, it’s likely that in each case they were holding a daily standing meeting to plan out their day.

No project of scale or meaningful work across channels can occur without clear communication. Everyone involved must know what needs to be done and how they’re expected to do it. Otherwise, you’ll quickly get a silo effect, under which team members learn to work independently and without consideration of the greater group goals.

To help facilitate team communication, consider scheduling daily standing meetings (often called morning huddles or daily check-ins). These meetings are ways for teams to convene in a brief, focused way and ensure the day starts off happy and productive.

Morning huddles help ensure that the entire team is ready to attack the day while driving employee engagement. They allow leaders to develop teams that are well-informed, coordinated, well-trained, efficient, trusting and unified in providing excellent service or care to their customers and clients. Leaders also gain an opportunity to get with the associates to listen to their concerns, ideas and opinions.

During each meeting, leaders check in with team members about what the day will look like. Team members get to share information with each other and deliver project status checks. Daily meetings give your team the opportunity to boost or preserve production and help the company reach its desired growth.

So, what exactly should these meetings look like and how should they be structured? Who should attend and how often? Are there other “rules” and best practices to follow? To answer these questions, let’s use the “5 W’s and 1 H” approach -- who, what, where, when, why and how.

Who?

The entire group should participate, from the leader down. If the group is too large to convene in one gathering and keep things short and efficient, multiple groups should be formed, with each being led by a manager or team leader.

Daily team huddles are not just for teams that share the same workspace. Remote teams can also benefit from them. The same general approach applies to remote teams as well.

What?

We discussed what daily meetings are above. Now let’s answer another “what,” as in: What do you actually say? 

What you say during your morning huddle depends on what your team needs. However, keep in mind that the purpose of the team huddle is to check in with your team, so each update should be short and crisp. 

Here are some ideas of what to share during the huddle (choose some, not all of the following): 

  • Review of your company's or your team's top three metrics
  • Yesterday's (or recent) notable accomplishments, tying them into company values where appropriate
  • Top three priorities for the day/week
  • Where you are and are not on track
  • Areas of “stuck” (roadblocks that you need help with) to be dealt with after the huddle
  • Client updates

Review your morning huddle process regularly to see if it’s still fulfilling your team’s communication needs. You might find after some time that as your company and team evolve, you might have different things to communicate during your morning huddle.  

Where?

Wherever there is enough room for everyone to stand comfortably and ease of access. (We will discuss daily meetings for remote teams below.) Position yourselves in a circle and use the time to review the day’s tasks and individual responsibilities, as well as minor challenges that individual teammates may be facing.

This will keep everyone connected and help work through small issues that can often halt progress. It will also build accountability; people don’t want to let others in the group down.

When?

These meetings should be scheduled for first thing in the morning, before everyone gets settled in for the day, which is when people are most motivated to get work done. At a customer- or client-facing business, it would happen a few minutes before opening. If your team works flexible hours, choose a core time when all the team members are present.

Be consistent as much as possible. Shoot for the same place, same time, every day. Set expectations up front for attendance, including being prompt and starting on time, regardless of who is late.

Beware of making your team huddle the only way for everyone to start the day. Some team members might feel like their work need not start until after the morning huddle, which results in lost productivity. 

Why?

A big benefit of the daily huddle is hearing about victories from each leader. Companies typically focus a great deal of energy on what’s not going well and how to improve. Huddles help leaders remember there are many victories we should celebrate while also improving opportunity areas.

Huddles also allow leaders to share situations where they need help from someone else, and the group can help identify who or what is needed. However, it is vitally important that the team understands that daily huddles are not meant to solve all issues that are shared. The actual solving of the issue will take place outside of the meeting.

How?

Schedule a short enough block of time (under 15 minutes) to comfortably complete the entire meting while standing. Work hard to ensure that the meeting starts and ends on time (if it becomes a problem, appoint a timekeeper.) 

Rotate team members to conduct the meeting and make certain that everyone stays on point. Team members from each department can and should contribute what pertains to their department.

Warning: A standing meeting is a huge commitment. Don’t start them if you can't keep them going.

More huddle tips

  • Define the purpose. People need to know why you’re doing this. Tell them that these meetings are to share information and expose issues. Huddles reduce the need for pop-up meetings, unscheduled interruptions, confusion or redundancy, which saves time, money and frustration -- and lots of back-and-forth emails. They are also designed to build teams and cooperation.
  • Say it often. You’ll need to remind them of this regularly. Otherwise, they will lose interest, and the meetings can turn into something completely different. 

As valuable as huddles are, there is also a need for longer, more in-depth meetings. The Table Group, led by Patrick Lencioni, advises that leaders schedule weekly time (45-90 minutes) for tactical meetings (to review activities and team metrics) as well as monthly meetings of a longer duration (2-4 hours) for more strategic conversations.

Of course, there can be too much meeting occurring in your workspace (with too little value to show for it.) One study found that, on average, employees spend an hour a day in meetings, for a total of 31 hours per month. The same study found that almost half of employees believed meeting to be the No. 1 timewaster at the office.

 

Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, (@impactfulcoach) is president of Impactful Coaching & Consulting. Check out his leadership book, "Becoming the New Boss." Read his blog and listen to his leadership podcast. Download his free new productivity blueprint and his e-books, "Core Essentials of Leadership," "An E.P.I.C. Solution to Understaffing" and "How to Boost Your Leadership Impact."

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