How to Lead a Productive Team Meeting


Tim Elmore provides some constructive tips on how to lead a productive team meeting and get the most out of your team members.

A survey was given to executive level leaders. They were asked: in what subject could you most use help? Two-thirds of them replied, "A book about how to work with boards, teams and committees."

Let’s face it. Most of us have never been trained on how to lead a productive meeting or how to get the most out of your team members. Often, meetings with committees are challenging and unproductive. An experienced leader once said jokingly, “For God so loved the world… He didn't send a committee.”

On the other hand, a group of people can usually accomplish more than an individual if a good leader is in charge. Leaders turn talent into performance. They turn groups into teams. They’re brokers of the resources the team possesses and they align team members so that they can accomplish more as a collection of people than as individuals all working apart. So—how do we lead productive meetings for these teams and accomplish something significant?

Setting Up the Meeting

Some simple steps you can take to prepare for a successful meeting:

  • Contact each team member personally and confirm the details.
  • Ask something of each member attending for the purpose of buy-in.
  • Request that members notify you if they cannot attend, for accountability.
  • Schedule the meetings in a comfortable and safe place for discussion.
  • Foster participation by asking members to prepare a report for the meeting.
  • Decide and relay beforehand how long and how often the meetings will be.
  • Invest some time during the meeting for personal and professional growth.
  • Meet members individually outside the meetings for relationship building.

The Elements of an Effective Team Meeting

My experience tells me that teams need certain essential elements from their leader and each of these can happen in a meeting. The four elements of a good meeting are:

Vision Time – This time is for communicating the big-picture vision of the organization. In this period, the leader finds creative ways to remind everyone of what and why they do what they do. It could include stories, video, statistics, drama… you name it.

Administrative Time – This period is for interacting about relevant events, updating on the latest information, announcements, and ensuring everyone is aligned on the outcomes you are targeting. It’s a time to communicate information and news.

Skill Time – Next, offer relevant training to equip leaders to serve more effectively. If you have members with various levels of experience, divide them into two groups: Leadership Foundations (new leaders) and Leadership Fitness (seasoned leaders).

Huddle Time – During this time, allow the various types of leaders, filling different roles, to break into smaller communities for discussion and planning. Here they can focus on personal application of the training and pertinent areas to their positions.

A Planning Meeting

Often the purpose of a meeting is purely planning. The entire time is spent thinking about an event or idea in the future, so that you can execute it well.

1. Determine an important but realistic goal for the meeting.

Your objective should be significant but not overwhelming to team members. The project and outcomes should be compelling yet concrete.

2. Assign preparation work to attendees.

Team members support what they help create. Ensure ownership by requesting that each member prepare something (facts, charts, etc) to share at the meeting.

3. Declare the goal and the guidelines at the beginning.

At the start, communicate exactly what you hope to accomplish and the clear guidelines for discussion—what is off limits and what’s within the boundaries.

4. Lead the discussion, by delegating appropriate issues to team members.

The leader must run point for the meeting, but should do so my delegating certain topics or issues to the right people. Plan based on the facts presented by each one.

5. Draft a written conclusion.

As discussion wanes and time runs out, have someone draft a written conclusion of what was decided at the meeting, both big picture and key elements.

6. Assign personal responsibility.

Ensure everyone is cooperating to complete the goal. You can do this by assigning projects to each member that help the team make progress. Back it up with an email.

7. Timeline.

Let everyone know when projects are due. Deadlines are lifelines. For accountability, everyone should know when each should be done. Back it up with an email.

8. Listing of resources.

A list will help you gain a realistic view of what you have and what you need to achieve your goals. This list should include people, technology, money and time.

9. Next steps.

This is actually the most important item to create at the end of a meeting. Make a list of the step everyone will take and send it in written form, electronically.

10. Persons in charge of each task.

Be sure when you list the steps, you also list exactly who is in charge of each one; the person responsible to ensure it gets done.

Questions for Reflection

What do you perceive to be the top reason you have ineffective meetings?
What are the actions steps that would most help you improve?

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