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Why You Need To Be Rotating Meeting Roles

Ever been in a meeting where one of these situations occurred?

  • You’re scheduled to hold a virtual meeting, but the meeting participant who normally sets up the calls is running late. Nobody knows who’s going to start the call, and precious minutes go by.

  • The regular meeting note-taker is on vacation! You realize too late at the end of the meeting that nobody took notes.

  • One person juggles all the meeting roles – facilitation, note-taking, and time management. That person feels taxed and underperforms in each role.

Just as we can get stuck playing a particular role in our families, our meeting roles can also grow stagnant. Such stagnation can prevent a team from functioning more effectively and becoming a high performing team.

Rotating meeting roles can help your team get unstuck

Rotating meeting roles and responsibilities among all team members can shift a stuck or unproductive dynamic and create a more positive team culture. Team members can develop new skills, feel accountable for the meeting’s success, and build strong bonds with others.

1. Develop new skills

Planning a meeting agenda, facilitating a meeting or taking meeting notes can be helpful tools for almost anyone. Creating a meeting agenda builds critical thinking skills to identify a meeting objective and the path to reach it; facilitating a meeting develops leadership skills like active listening and asking the right questions to elicit information; and capturing effective meeting notes practices listening, distilling information, and organizing. One of the fastest ways to pick up new skills is to learn by doing. Why not learn by taking on the various roles that make meetings successful?

2. Create engagement and ownership

Rotating meeting roles increases the likelihood that team members feel more ownership in the meeting’s success. They may even feel empowered to challenge the status quo about how meetings are run so that the meetings become more effective.

3. Build stronger team relationships

Trying different meeting roles can help produce empathy among team members and build relationships. For example, someone who’s already experienced the challenges of the note-taking role may empathize with and support a new person inhabiting that role. The opposite is also true. Someone new to note-taking may have a new appreciation for the person who previously served in this role.

Putting it into action

While rotating meeting roles may sound involved, it’s worth a try. It may be a good opportunity for your team to reflect on current practices and co-create new ways of working. Follow these 4 steps to introduce the practice to your team.

Step 1. Anticipate a learning curve

If you’re the team leader, asking another participant to facilitate meetings may raise concerns that you’re shirking your duties, relinquishing control, or even compromising a meeting topic by putting it in the hands of a less informed or capable participant. On the contrary, rotating meeting roles creates opportunities for others to grow, while ultimately improving the overall quality of your meetings. As meeting expert, Paul Axtell, advises, “Just because you’re in charge, doesn’t mean you have to run every meeting.”

Think about what meeting roles you can start rotating. Recognize that it may take time for team members to learn the new skills, feel comfortable in new roles, and be as effective as possible.

Step 2. Define roles together

When you’re ready, talk with your team to determine which roles serve your team and to establish expectations for each of the roles. Don’t create roles just for the sake of assigning one to everyone. Here is a list of common roles and responsibilities.

Consider having a backup note-taker ready when the primary note-taker wants to contribute at length to the discussion.

Step 3. Experiment

Once you’ve defined roles, get started. You can rotate based on the frequency of your meetings – every meeting, every month, or whatever works best for the team.

Depending on the readiness of your team, start small with 1 or 2 roles like the note-taker or time-keeper. To ease team members into the facilitator’s role, break the meetings into different segments and let team members facilitate one segment instead of an entire meeting. Or, have more experienced team members mentor others who take on new meeting roles.

Step 4. Debrief, reflect, and be creative!

After implementing this practice for awhile, initiate a conversation in which the team reflects on what they’ve learned. You can even make role rotation fun! For example, once the team defines meeting responsibilities, create cards with the roles on them and let team members draw one out to determine their parts in the next meeting.

What if my team doesn’t have formal meeting roles?

It’s always a good time to establish some. Share this article with your team to create awareness about the roles that make meetings effective.

When you’re ready, follow the steps above to start a conversation about rotating meeting roles. To effectively manage change and minimize resistance, make sure you communicate the purpose behind this practice and what’s in it for them. Propose it as an experiment, welcome feedback, and be open to adjusting the approach to fit your team.

Don’t lose sight of the two main goals of identifying and rotating meeting roles - to share responsibility for a meeting’s success and to develop the skills of team members. This way, meetings can become an avenue for growth, in addition to moving the team’s work forward.

Does your organization assign and rotate meeting roles? What meetings roles does your team use?

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