Yep, it’s that time again! No, I’m not talking about football, I’m talking communication. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I think about how much work I could be getting done if I didn’t have to participate in so many meetings. That being said, it is imperative to keep the lines of communication open between management and staff so like it or not, meetings can be and are very valuable. Our collection office holds team meetings once a month for approximately an hour. There is a formal agenda that I add to over the month in between meetings to talk about issues I’m seeing overall from the group, good and bad. Our administrative member takes notes and there are formal meeting minutes distributed so we have a record of what was discussed. We go over our results from the previous month and brainstorm as a group what we can do to improve, whether it is the timing of our automated calling campaigns or trends we’re noticing with our mass mailings.
Last year our division head wanted to have an overview of each of her departments and we were chosen to be the first to have an outside consultant perform a formal operational review. While we were commended for our track record of superior results, groundbreaking use of technology and ability to operate at a significant savings to our clients, one item that came out was the need to increase our internal communication. It was suggested that we increase the frequency and effectiveness of our team meetings. I was surprised and a little bit apprehensive about this. I felt we had good communication within our group. I was worried that with our current workload we could not afford to take another hour each week to hold formal meetings. Not only do we not have the staff to monitor our phones but it also puts a burden on our neighboring offices to manage our walk-in customers when we are all out in a conference room somewhere. I immediately met with the staff individually to find out what it was they felt they were not getting out of monthly meetings. It turned out none of them felt we needed to have more “formal” meetings, but they did want to have more input on the agenda each month. Most of them also felt we should have more frequent but shorter meetings. One of the suggestions that came up was to start “huddles”.
I was not familiar with this term in regards to a team meeting/team building concept. As it turns out though, these micro-meetings have become very useful and popular in our office. Basically you gather your group together for a brief chat, these gatherings are to last from seven to fifteen minutes and no longer, otherwise you’re missing the point of a mini meeting. Everyone has to stand during the huddle and that means if you have to point someone out and get them to stand with you then do so. I made the mistake of allowing one of the staff to remain at her desk once since we were gathered right near her cubicle. Sure enough, it was obvious she was not engaged in the conversation since she was reading items on her monitor and fiddling with her pen the whole time. I haven’t made that mistake again. I use huddle time to relay information that comes up that I feel needs distributed immediately and cannot wait for our monthly meeting. The topics are items I would have passed on through email in the past. I’ve found that using the huddle as the vehicle to communicate, I instantly can tell by their body language who is “buying in” and who may not be, information I would have missed had I used electronic communication.
I have read that CEO’s of large corporations incorporate huddles into their daily routines and some have had the practice filter down to their rank and file employees. There are many ways to structure your huddles to fit your unique situation. One idea I plan to integrate into our office is to have regularly scheduled huddles and have each of the staff rotate to lead the discussion. They will be the ones choosing the topic and hopefully it will engage the entire group more. According to an article by Leigh Buchanan of Inc. Magazine, Brian Scudamore, CEO of 1-800-Got-Junk?, started using huddles in 2003 to get a feel for his employees daily outlook. Now the entire corporation uses huddles for keeping an eye on group activities, as a motivational tool and to generate ideas for lengthier, more in-depth meetings later on. They even have a room dedicated strictly to huddles. (Buchanan)
Since I started integrating huddles at our office, I have found that our regularly scheduled team meetings are even more focused and we are able to get through even lengthier agendas in a shorter amount of time. I feel that it has helped our team learn how to communicate better so when we do have our formal sessions we are able to use our time more productively leaving us more time to accomplish our goals.
Buchanan, Leigh. "The Art of the Huddle." Inc.com. 01 11 2007: Web. 29 Sep. 2012. http://www.inc.com/magazine/20071101/the-art-of-the-huddle.html.