Can you believe half of the year is almost over? If you’re scratching your head wondering where did the time go? Join the club. In today’s fast-paced work environment, the day is over in a blink of an eye.

Many companies use this time of year to do formalized check-ins with their management teams and employees to assess progress against the year’s priorities. A time to reflect on what’s on track, what side-tracks did we encounter and/or anticipate, and what’s needed to stay focused and committed? This robust conversation should include feedback and observations from other team members with the intent to drive focus on behaviours and activities required to achieve outputs for the reminder of the year. In my experience, this level of dialogue reveals insights into how the team manages through unexpected change or distractions, unspoken power plays between team members, confusion around accountabilities, and a lack of leadership. Somehow, in a blink of an eye, our focus has become other people’s priorities instead of our own.

Below are tips on how to raise the bar on your mid-year management update meeting which will help your team get back on track and strengthen accountabilities. You can also use these tips in smaller operations with all employees present.

Set aside time. The amount depends on the size of your team and the agenda items. It could range from a half-day to full day meeting. Some leaders will prefer to have one-on-one time scheduled in advance with their direct reports to gather insights and determine focus on team meeting. Make sure everyone is available to attend and it is scheduled at a time with minimal impact on the operations.

Assign pre-work. Ask your direct reports to reflect on progress made against their priorities. You want to see metrics and outputs for their areas of focus. Have them rank their overall priorities using RAG (Red, Amber and Green) ratings. Get them to think about what has contributed to their success, what additional support or request do they need from their team members or from you. You also want them to be ready to share what they have noticed about their team members’ achievements and challenges. This information will give you a sense of how self-aware your managers are about their own behaviours and those of others.

Design a meeting format for optimal dialogue. Key components of this type of meeting would include; working agreements and stated outcomes, set time frame, un-interrupted updates from each member based on prework assigned, your updates including overview of celebrations and areas of opportunities, discuss key themes and observations shared during updates, challenges and issues affecting priorities, brainstorming around what needs to done, by when and by whom. Wrap up includes each person summarizing their accountabilities and key takeaways from session.

Let it get heated. If you follow these tips, the latter part of this meeting could have sparks flying as varying perceptions are shared about each other’s behaviours, achievements and challenges. This is when you remind the team of the working agreements set at the beginning which should include being open and honest, focus feedback on behaviors and not the person, etc. It’s also time to switch hats from chairing to putting on your facilitator hat and grabbing a flipchart (or have your assistant capture notes). Remind the team about the outcomes for this section which is to get clarity around what’s working well and what needs to change to achieve priorities. You want to ask open-ended questions such as;

  • What common themes came up in our updates?
  • What’s working well as a team? What’s getting in our way, in terms of behaviours, actions
  • What’s within our control? Who’s responsible for removing barriers?
  • What do we need to start, stop and continue to achieve our priorities this year?

Notice if and when the discussion focuses on particular individuals and encourage other voices to be heard. The objective is not to blame or take over the limelight and it’s your job to "call it out" if you see it happening. Encourage team members to speak from their point of view using pronouns such as “I”. If things are getting heated, call a “time-out” and summarize what you’ve heard from each party. Seek to find where there is agreement. Acknowledge any emotions getting triggered and after your time-out, ask again what emotions they feel to see if there is change. Your aim is to lessen the intensity of the emotions which arise while having a productive dialogue. If you can stay with conflict and remain as neutral as possible, you will engender robust conversations which will build respect, trust and accountability on your team.

Raise the bar. What needs to change from your point of view? State it aloud. What will it take to achieve aggressive goals? What do you expect to see more or less of? Your input is just as critical and even more important in raising the performance of your team. Some leaders shy away from this because they fear their team is already overburdened so they settle for compliancy. It is your role to promote new thinking and challenge the status quo. Especially if it’s not getting you to the results you expect. If you are hearing resistance, get curious and ask more questions. It’s the opportunity to hold your team accountable for delegating effectively, fostering a culture of high performance by ensuring the right people are in the right jobs and listen for what is needed from you as their leader.  

Share a meal and laugh together.  Many companies will plow through these meetings with a working lunch or dinner. If your meetings are designed well, you will have time to breathe, eat a meal and have fun together. After your meeting, change up the flow, move to another room if possible. You can arrange “lighter” topics at each table during the meal or just take the opportunity to socialize with one another.  Think about how you can lighten the mood after what could be an intense meeting.  Some clients will have a fun activity scheduled afterwards. It could be physical like playing golf or game of baseball. It could be volunteering with a local charity or going to a comedy club. Whatever you decide, do it together as a group. Use it as an opportunity to bond as a management team.  

As you gear up for your upcoming management meeting, which of these tips could be useful?