Team meetings are one of the most underestimated elements in the life of a startup. And we learnt that the hard way.

    For a very long time, you don’t feel the need for team meetings. I mean, it’s just two, three people with a great idea. Everyone is inspired enough to work on it and that’s why the startup exists in the first place. So everyone knows what to do. Life can be confusing, difficult and support-less but rarely is it so packed a day that at the end of it you don’t know if you dropped any balls. When Shrey and I first started, I remember we would both be at our machines and typing away. Often, a whole day would pass when we didn’t feel the need to really talk. When Abhishek joined, it was even quieter. Both coders sat in different rooms and coded away and I was the one who cared to make at least small talk to which the days I got a response, I felt victory!

    But then, things always have a way of getting complicated. We started working with more clients. Each one was a different kind of project. One hardcore CSLA.NET, another in PHP, another in HTML5 and JavaScript – each day work got more diverse than the previous. And well, there’s that wild enthusiasm of a startup that tells you can take on the world and manage a millings at a time. So we started work on a few of our products. ASP.NET MVC 4, some more PHP, some more HTML5. Why not?

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    The team expanded. Ferdinand joined, so did Vivek. We had Mahesh complete his internship and Pratik begin his. Work increased. Some of our own projects got delayed as we tried to keep client work on track. And suddenly, work wasn’t fun anymore.

    Everyone hardly spoke, the laughs reduced, work became routine. And no one was able to figure out why.

    Believe it or not, this state of disinterest and lack of motivation continued for almost two months. It was login – logout like any other organization. Everything that all of us had wanted to leave behind when we entered startup life. Till one day where we had the watershed moment – an emotionally charged team catchup with everyone venting and trying to figure out why things were a mess internally while everything seemed perfect to the outside world.

    You’d be surprised at the things we all said – “I don’t know what the other developer is doing”, “I want to learn from someone else who has already done this in the team, rather than have to reinvent the wheel”, “What does the marketing team really do?”, “We don’t understand what you code everyday”, “I didn’t know this project was so big.”

    And here we were proud of running a transparent, fun startup. What on earth was going on?

    The answer was in fact, quite simple. As all of us sat back and though of ways to scramble out of the mire, we realized we had done what everyone dreads in any long-term relationship including a marriage.

    Like it happens in a marriage sometimes, we had stopped communicating and lost the excitement!

    That’s when it hit us. We needed to talk more, and more regularly. Team meetings were not a thing for large, complex organizations. Nor do they need to be a dreadful waste of time.

    Team meetings could in fact be a means of getting the team together, sharing updates, asking for support and having fun.

    So now, we have team meetings every day. And here’s what we have learnt about how to do them right:

    1. Keep meetings short: Long meetings eat away from productive time and disengage at least some part of the audience while the others continue talking. They need to be short to be effective.
    2. Always have a meeting agenda: Arrive at a standard format if that works for you. Just three simple bullet points that need to be discussed – what did I do yesterday, what will I do today, what help do I need from whom; could be one such example
    3. Talk about successes and about failures: Meetings are not only for achievements and brownie points. Nor are they only for whining about problems. Ensure people talk about successes and failures. Ensure people give credit where it is due and feel comfortable asking for help
    4. Make sure everyone talks: Let people know of meetings in advance – don’t spring it on them from nowhere. And use classic brainstorm rules – make sure everyone is included and everyone speaks
    5. Have informal team meetings too: Meetings need not always be formal and work related. A team that has fun together, laughs together, spends time together, bonds and works better as a team. We take it for granted when we are small teams and then it becomes too difficult when we grow large. So have some short burst of time in the day when everyone sits around for a while and bonds informally – it could be lunch, it could be tea, it could be staring at the stars or running out into the rain

    We have got points 2. to 5. right so far and it seems to be working well. Point 1. we are still working on and most of us in the team sometimes struggle with keeping things to the point. That’s something we are working on.

    Would love to hear how these tips worked for you. Which of these tips did you try with your team? Scroll down and leave a comment on this post.

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