by Gwyn Williams and Bruce Milroy

Running a team or group session

Any meeting should be considered as a teambuilding event, even the regular weekly or monthly meeting. Whenever and wherever the team gets together, think about the implications and possibilities in relation to helping the team perform. You may also organise other, more formal activities, exercises or group events, as well as other social activities such as ten-pin bowling.

Whatever you are doing, certain variables can have a significant influence on the way the activity works. Consider what impact the following factors might have on the well-being and effectiveness of your team:

  • The size and location of the team
  • The skills of team leaders and facilitators
  • The style of team leaders and facilitators
  • Members’ personality traits, beliefs and values
  • Psychometrics testing and theory
  • Gender and age differences
  • Members’ fitness levels and abilities
  • Team dynamics and team spirit
  • Learning styles and coaching methods
  • Individual and collective experiences
  • Clear briefing and guidance on tasks
  • The length of the project and planning
  • Reward and recognition
  • The venue and room layout
  • Materials provided or made available
  • The roles and responsibilities of facilitator, record keeper, reviewer or presenter
  • The rules – if the activity is a competition or team league

For more formal and carefully-considered exercises and games to tackle team issues or develop specific skills, such as leadership, cooperation, communication, planning and time-management, we would suggest that you call on the services of an outside consultant who specialises in team building (see When to get an external consultant).

Planning a team session – practical considerations

Below are some questions that will help you to plan a team session/meeting.

  • Who will attend the meeting? Who is in the team?
  • Where will the team meet? What props do I need?
  • What will be the duration and frequency of meetings?
  • How many people will participate in the team?
  • What is the purpose of the team?
  • What is the purpose of this meeting?
  • What outcomes would I like to get from this meeting? In other words, when the meeting is over, what do I want the team members to be doing, saying and feeling?
  • What are the key topics of discussion for this meeting?
  • Can I develop a session-by-session plan?
  • To what degree will sessions be structured?
  • What will be the team ground rules? How will these be agreed?
  • How will I prepare team members for the meeting?
  • What problems can I expect to run into, and how will I deal with those?
  • How will I handle dropouts?
  • What paperwork/documentation will be required?
  • How will I assess and measure the effectiveness of the meeting?

The timing

When should you have meetings and how often? That depends on how often your team need to discuss key issues. For example, if you are running a critical project on a tight timeline, you might need to meet every day.

In more normal business situations, teams typically meet once a fortnight or once a month.

Our strong recommendation would be to bring the team together for a meeting on at least a monthly basis; you certainly shouldn’t leave more than three months between meetings, even in exceptional circumstances.

Some ways to start a team meeting

  1. Run an initial session on ‘expectations’: go around the room and have each member state what he/she wants from the upcoming session.
  2. As leader, share your thoughts about where the group is at, how it is progressing, ways the group might be getting stuck and so on.
  3. Ask members if they have any unresolved feelings or thoughts about the previous session: ‘Did anyone have any after thoughts or leftover feelings about last week’s session?’
  4. Have each member complete the sentence, ‘Today, I’d like to get actively involved by...’

Some ways to end a team meeting

  1. Ask members to tell the group briefly what they learned about themselves through their relationships with other members in that particular session.
  2. Ask, ‘What was it like for you to be in this group today?’
  3. Instruct, ‘Let’s do a quick go-around and have everyone say a few words on how the group is progressing so far and make any suggestions for change.’
  4. Indicate, ‘Before we close today, I’d like to share with you some of my reactions and observations of this session.’
  5. Invite team members to quickly describe what worked well during the meeting, and what the team could improve on in the next meeting.
  6. Determine if there are any issues that members would like to return to or explore in the next session.
Some tips...

...on how to have effective meetings:

  • Prepare – make sure you have an agenda and any information you need to hand before the meeting.
  • Venue – plan your meeting in an appropriate space. It may be acceptable to have a team meeting in a ‘huddle’ round a table in open plan, or you may need a private room. Think about the atmosphere you want to create when selecting a venue.
  • Communicate – make sure that everyone has a copy of the agenda well in advance of the meeting. If you expect team members to lead a piece of the agenda, prepare them in advance and coach them if necessary.
  • Chair – appoint a chairperson for the meeting. This may be you or someone else, but the role is crucial to effective meetings. The chair will usually
  • Introduce an agenda item
  • Clarify if the item is for information or decision
  • Clarify how long the item has been allocated on the agenda
  • Invite quiet team members to join the conversation
  • Invite more ‘wordy’ team members to allow others the opportunity to offer a view
  • Summarise the discussion and check what the team have agreed
  • Keep the agenda to time.
  • Record decisions and outputs – keep a note of the key decisions made and who was involved in making them. You don’t necessarily have to have formal minutes, but you should have at least a rough record of what was agreed and the actions to be taken. It can be very helpful to review this at your next meeting to ensure you don’t repeat work or re-open a decision that’s already been made.
  • Communicate (again!) – ensure that all of those present (and those who offered apologies) get a copy of the record of the meeting, along with any actions taken from the meeting

Also see the topics on Meetings and Facilitation.