Involving Collaborators in Team Meetings

My name is Jean-Michel and I am a committed engineer at Per Angusta. Let me share with you what kind of regular meetings I have implemented with my team.

Every week, my staff and I meet for 2 hours while consistently repeating 6 steps, each being important for a specific reason I will get into. We call those meetings “Tech Team Sessions”, or “TTS”.

The first step aims to prevent conflicts between participants by asking themselves two questions: How do I feel today? What do I expect from the current meeting?

Letting each other know feelings and expectations helps to react in appropriate manner and what topic to focus on during the meeting.

A leader is appointed on a volunteering basis. He is mainly responsible for the meeting to finish on time and for the participants to address expected topics efficiently.

He is supported by a time-keeper to keep focusing on the participants and their topics rather than continuously racing against the clock.

By sharing leadership across weeks, all collaborators feel committed in the success of their meetings.

One of the most important rule of this meeting format is: There is no predefined agenda and participants are encouraged to bring any subject they consider useful for their teammates.

Example of meeting agenda

It is built by the leader along with the participants, following 3 steps:
1. List of topics is collected
2. Time is allocated for each
3. Order is finally agreed

In case of too many requests, the leader makes a decision to fit with planning requirements.

Delegating topics makes participants feel that meetings belong to them. Thus it helps them thinking about what priorities are and what the team actually needs.

Topics are introduced by their owner on request of the leader. It can be about technical stuff (security upgrade, breaking change in the code base, best practice), project management (planning, business understanding, workflows) or collaboration (HR, on- and off-boarding, events), and so on.

The leader is responsible for speaking time to be equally shared. Giving him a sign ensures to be the next speaker.

He is also in charge of summarizing key messages and decisions, if necessary, before transitioning from one topic to another. It is useful to recall planned actions, who and why.

Each participant is invited to give feedbacks to the leader: How speaking time has been shared, how did he react to conflicting topics, how did he summarize them and highlighted key messages.

The idea is to improve soft skills by learning from the pairs. When something goes wrong with the current meeting, the following leader can avoid it and thus improve the collaboration within the whole team.

Before leaving, participants take time to individually answer four questions, as factually as possible, and share them:
- What did go well?
- What didn’t go as well?
- What did I learn?
- What am I going to implement for the next meeting?

The debate is not allowed and participants must listen to each other. The purpose of this step is to ensure that all participants step back on the meetings success, failures and lacks, thus they actually belong to them.

When I was 28 yo I got enrolled in an entrepreneurial program called Matrice where I met people coming from multiple horizons with the same goal: Bring people critical thinking and work differently. Especially Tiphaine Liu, a researcher in Education Sciences, who brought me series of communication and collaboration tools while she was the Pedagogical Director of the program.

One of the tools, originally called “Training Session” at Team Academy in Finland 25 years ago, aims to help students dialoging together and challenging their projects in a structured way of meeting. It is notably based on non-violent communication and being factual principles.

Disrupting training programs implementing “Training Sessions”: Team Academy at University Jyväskylä in Finland, Parcours Team Entrepreneur at EM Strasbourg and Matrice in Paris

I have introduced this 6-steps meeting format in my team 1.5 years ago and I assume it is still a real success: Meetings almost never go late and collaborators usually are looking forward to the next. Topics are sometimes surprising but always make the team going further.

It is an excellent tool to onboard new collaborators and interns within the team because they quickly feel involved in current topics and can bring their own as if they were in place since months.

Of course success is not guaranteed at all time and I sometimes require the team stepping back on our real needs. The team enjoys these meetings. That’s where we like to share with others what we recently learnt or did, but it is first of all a place where shared decisions and key messages must set up.

Ours meetings are a constant balance between freedom of collaborators and team productivity requirements.

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