How To Stop Wasting Time And Increase Team Productivity In Five Minutes A Day
“I feel pulled in 10 different directions at once!” exclaimed my client, Clara.
As a new leader, Clara wants to stop wasting time and increase team productivity. However, with so much on her plate, it’s a real struggle to keep in touch with her team. Clara knows that she has to be engaged as a leader (and not just a boss), be supportive and provide direction…but not become a micromanager.
“I don’t have time to micromanage anyone!” she said to me. Clara has a lot to juggle and doesn’t have the bandwidth to be as available as she would like. “Weekly staff meetings can get so long,” she continued. “I need a better method to support my team. Because I try to keep it to one hour, inevitably there is an almost daily churn of challenges I have to address outside of the once-a-week meeting.”
I told Clara that there is a different type of meeting that will solve most of her headaches called a stand-up meeting. Her first reaction to the word “meeting” was horror, followed by curiosity.
A stand-up meeting is a short, ideally five-to-15-minute daily collaboration with your team with a set agenda — and no one sits. Because there’s so much to do, most managers get lost in the daily churn and waste time trying to follow up individually or through more reactionary, traditional means. Based on my experience as a change agent in leadership, stand-up meetings can alleviate most management firefighting.
How We Waste Time And Create Stress
Any manager, new or experienced, can waste time chasing the immediate. While you might be aware of your priorities, how often do you feel like you actually accomplished something when you leave work each day? Most of my leadership clients report feeling overwhelmed, anxious and disconnected because they get lost in the complexity of daily problem-solving.
There’s always too much to do, and some traditional methods of team management can be real time-wasters. Weekly meetings might go too long or not be well organized. They can also create a culture that relies on you to solve all issues as they arise. Unfortunately, problems don’t wait until the weekly meeting to crop up. For reporting, relying on electronic means is too impersonal, and trying to make time for each individual every week is a huge drain on your resources.
Many managers are constantly in “reaction” mode instead of having a more consistent and real-time method to stay abreast of productivity. Some resort to forms of micromanaging or adopt a completely opposite approach and are too hands-off. Either approach creates stress and discontent within your team.
What’s Great About Stand-Up Meetings
The great thing about stand-up meetings is that you can set the direction for the team and increase productivity without wasting time. In addition, the short time frame encourages people to stay on track (if the meeting is facilitated properly). Most importantly, a well-functioning stand-up meeting enables employee empowerment. It encourages your team to solve problems at their level when they can, which is music to most managers’ ears.
Some key agenda points many managers like to incorporate in their stand-up meetings are:
• A one-minute personal report that is highly targeted and teaches brevity.
• A two-minute urgent issues report, which helps eliminate last-minute interruptions to your schedule.
• A one-minute report on daily (or weekly) priorities and goals that can be reviewed quickly by the manager. Even better if you have the team set the priorities and goals and adjust as needed.
• A one-minute “awesome moment” where anyone can acknowledge another team member for great work.
A well-run meeting with these key agenda points will take the weight off of your regular staff meetings, often resulting in a more organized and timely experience for the whole team.
How Stand-Up Meetings Go Wrong
Sadly, there are a lot of ways for a stand-up meeting to evolve into a giant mess. One of the biggest mistakes is trying to accomplish too much in one meeting. Your stand-up meeting should be no longer than 30 minutes. Ideally, only five to 15 minutes at most. Otherwise, it defeats the point.
Here are the rules:
1. Be brief or be gone. The stand-up meeting is not the time for obsessive details or deep discussion.
2. Use the “idea parking lot.” Tabling off-topic items or issues that need further discussion by “parking” them is critical to keeping the stand-up meeting on target.
3. Set action items. At the end of the meeting, set action items to address anything that needs to be taken care of.
4. Stay on time. Do not try to include more topics or allow people to ramble. Facilitate the meeting wisely to reap the rewards.
5. Stick to the agenda. It’s OK to change the agenda, but it’s important to stick to it. The agenda is a magic weapon against time-wasters and topic derailers.
6. Assign roles. Have a notetaker and someone to set action items. Give responsibility to other team members to help encourage an empowered culture.
Stop Wasting Time And Increase Team Productivity
As the manager, it’s your job to quickly and politely call out something that is off-topic or merits further discussion. A big mistake people make is trying to solve problems in a stand-up meeting. These meetings include everyone, but most issues do not need everyone to solve them. Establish who needs to focus on the issue and allow them to set a time to do so after the meeting.
While Clara was originally skeptical, she quickly found that her daily stand-up meetings freed hours of time during the week. “I’m so much more in touch with my team now, and I feel truly productive,” she said with relief. “I don’t feel like I’m putting out fires all the time.”
If handled well, the stand-up meeting can be the multi-functional tool that not only helps you stay on track with your team but aids team transparency, allows team members to solve problems at their level, enables management insight and fuels a supportive leadership style.
Forbes, Erin Urban