Team Meetings:  What Google can learn from Communication Coaches

Group of young multiracial people working in modern light office. Businessmen at work during meeting

In the communication field, there is a lot of  buzz about Google’s Project Aristotle, a meticulous, in-depth study of what differentiates high-functioning team meetings from others.

With all due respect for the yearlong study of over one hundred Google teams, we communication coaches have been helping teams and leaders foster productive meetings for years!

Google’s key findings, which we back with our experiences 100%, reveal that high-performing teams:

  • Support an atmosphere of psychological safety and comfort;
  • Enable equal participation from all group members over time;
  • Show sensitivity to nuances of non-verbal behavior and tone, and often share personal as well as professional information.

Our coaching team appreciates the challenge of masterminding the right mix of talent, personalities, and action items.  Fortunately, it is often the easy tweaks that go a long way to enhance comfort, participation, and awareness of nuances in team members’ behavior.

Recently, I worked with a senior leader in financial services who felt he had to be the driver of all meeting content and outcomes; in fact, he saw it as his job. He was baffled that his group was so quiet, rarely initiated topics, didn’t show passion regarding action items, and only engaged in small talk after the meeting.  He asked me how he could change things up.  Here are easy-to-apply team-meeting strategies we share with business clients:

  1. Begin meetings with small talk, or each person sharing an observation or personal update.
  2. Develop an agenda to which team members are expected to contribute. According to research, one-third of all meetings are viewed as a waste of time.  Change that!
  3. Use meetings for discussion and problem solving versus only providing information. One of my sayings is, “Go from information to inspiration and impact.”
  4. Try a round-robin, going around the room approach, when possible. The goal is to keep the talkers from dominating and enable the quieter folks to contribute. It is essential for equalizing talking time, a key ingredient for team success.  We know this technique can feel awkward and orchestrated at first.  In the long run, team members will appreciate being valued, and meetings will be considered worthwhile.
  5. Have some fun and novelty with a bit of partying, lunch meetings outside the office, and appealing surprise guests. Refreshments always help. I had a client who wanted to tighten his budget by eliminating the snacks. I told him I would give him the $25 for goodies in order to save all the gains we had made in coaching.

May your next team meeting be a valuable one!

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