There is only one “first meeting” when forming your leadership team–you won’t be able to have a “do-over.” Therefore, you will want to ensure that it is a success. It will set the tone and pattern for future team meetings and if done well will create an environment for great teamwork. Here are some practical ideas for launching your team well at that first meeting. Some ideas are obviously applicable at any stage of team formation. Some may fit your team and some not. Take these ideas like you would eat fish – enjoy the meat and discard the bones!
1) First meetings are important as they set tone, expectations, patterns, and first impressions that are lasting. So, giving good thought to ensure that it’s a hit is essential. Come prepared and plan the time well.
2) As a general outline for all leadership team meetings (especially your first one) think of 3 parts: business, development, and relationships! There is not equal time spent for all three, but try to insure that every time together you address these three areas. The business will always get the most attention for teams form to accomplish a task. The business items often come with deadlines that demand our attention. The development and relationship pieces (building community and esprit de corps) are easy to shortcut or minimize their importance. But to ignore these will be detrimental to your effectiveness and impact as a team in the long-term.
3) The development part of team meetings should be related to an aspect of leadership and can be varied – from interacting over a bible passage, article, book, or even an entire movie you watch together and then talk about leadership lessons demonstrated, etc. If leading a team of busy leaders be wise in how much prep beforehand you can expect of the team as all are very busy (i.e. instead of reading and discussing an entire book together, choose one chapter from the book to read and discuss).
4) Relationships – for those of us who are more task oriented, this aspect of our meetings can seem like a “waste of time.” Remember, just because you meet together does not mean that you are building trust relationships on the team! I’ve done everything from using team building exercises, to having an annual golf tournament with a revolving trophy, to playing board games, party games, going out for a movie (not necessarily leadership oriented), fishing, visiting historical sites, visiting other ministries, etc. It is only by building deep friendships that go beyond just being on a task-oriented team, building trust through shared experience, that we will be able to create a safe place where we can be real with one another. The transparency and vulnerability that you model before the team as a team leader will help create this for others on the team.
5) When you think about these three aspects of every meeting, you realize that you will need to have enough time scheduled for this, in order to have a relaxed pace. The tendency is just to schedule the business agenda for the meeting and neglect time for development and relationships. With multi-day meetings I would try to begin by sharing the Word and praying together for an extended time each day. I would sometimes lead this time or ask others to lead, trying to make the time in the Word interactive. It can help to begin the first part of our times together with each giving a personal update on life and family – seeking to model the idea that we are important as people, not just the task that we do. We would often pray for each other during these times.
6) You are wise to define the purpose of the team as well as expectations. What will this team accomplish if we all contribute well? Be sure you don’t have a “hidden agenda” with the answers already decided upon. No doubt you’ll have some ideas in these areas, but if the team as a whole helps shape this, they will all own it together and will be highly motivated to carry it out.
7) One thing to discuss is how you will make decisions on the team. There are several standard decision-making models (a subject for another blog) and you’ll want to clarify how the team will make decisions as you go forward. I personally believe in “a leader and their team” as opposed to “team leadership” with a participative decision-making style for most daily leadership decisions. But realize that all decision-making models are appropriate for different times and situations. This subject can be a development piece for your team members to help them as they lead their own teams in the future.
8) As you think about setting future goals and plans, you want to insure that the goals are balanced between being realistic, given where you are now, but also faith influenced, having enough growth that they will require the hand of God and His blessing in order to see them accomplished. Having both aspects and holding them in a dynamic tension will enable you to recruit others to ‘lay down their nets and come with you.’
You only have one ‘first team meeting’ – make it a good one! And remember, don’t eat the bones!