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Chip Griffin is the founder of the Small Agency Growth Alliance (SAGA) where he helps PR & marketing agencies grow and thrive. He brings more than two decades of experience as an agency executive and entrepreneur. He shares the wisdom of his success and lessons of his failures. Follow him on Twitter at @ChipGriffin.

 

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, the lead blogger at Spin Sucks, and the host of Spin Sucks the podcast. She also is co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Follow her on Twitter at @GiniDietrich.

Recent Episodes

How to make agency team meetings more productive

How often should you be meeting with your agency team members and what should you be discussing?

That’s the topic that Chip and Gini tackle in this week’s episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast.

It is easy to dismiss meetings as unproductive and profess your desire not to tie your team up in endless conversation with each other.

But that’s usually a sign that the meetings themselves aren’t being held on the right schedule with the right formats and the right attendees.

Well-structured meetings at the proper times can make a big difference in the success of your agency business — and your client engagements.

Get some tips on the kinds of meetings you should hold, the formats you should use, and the outcomes you should expect.

The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.

Chip Griffin  

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin,

Gini Dietrich  

and I’m Gini Dietrich,

Chip Griffin  

and Gini, I’m a little concerned with our weekly pre show meetings. I’m not sure whether right frequency and content so I’d really like to discuss that with you. Sounds good. Right after this. So our weekly pre show meeting is rather meandering to be honest. Unlike some of the things that I say during the open that this one actually has a nugget of truth to it. I don’t think we’re gonna change it though, because that would require effort. Some of it’s just for fun anyway. So

Gini Dietrich  

yeah, we solve all sorts of world problems.

Chip Griffin  

We we – unbelievable number of world problems get solved, unfortunately, forget them after the fact. So, solve them, and then don’t do anything about it. So Okay. Last, it is what it is. So we are going to talk about meetings today. And we are going to talk about the frequency of those meetings and and the content of those meetings, but in the context of you and your agency team. And this is something that I think came about because of a Counselors Academy forum discussion. Right, Gini?

Gini Dietrich  

It is there right before the holidays. There was a conversation about, you know, as we add to our team, we’re accustomed to doing meetings one way, but we’re adding to the team. It’s rare to have people in multiple time zones, how do we handle this? How do we handle meetings? How do we make sure that there aren’t too many, but that everybody’s staying on top of things, and and everybody’s staying engaged to as a remote organization?

Chip Griffin  

Right. And I think that, you know, finding that the right frequency or the right cadence as some people would call it is important, because it’s something that may need to evolve over time, and particularly for agencies that went through the transition from being in office to remote now to maybe hybrid or something like that, you know, you you have to be willing to adjust. And as your size changes, you have to be willing to adjust. And as your client makes changes, you have to be willing to adjust. So there’s no, there’s no set formula that everybody should follow. But there are some best practices, I think that we can talk about based on what we’ve seen.

Gini Dietrich  

Yeah, I would say so too. And I think the the flexibility is really important. We found at the end of 2021, that there were a lot of unnecessary meetings on the calendar that had just gotten there. And we kept them. So at the beginning of the year, this year, I said, All right, let’s take a look at this. We cleaned the slate entirely of meetings. And then we restructured stuff internally. So we’re actually doing a daily standup huddle every day at 11 o’clock central time. So noon for the East Coast, you know, so it’s not too early, but it allows everybody from different time zones to be able to participate. And then we’re doing a weekly, all agency meeting. And then of course, the every supervisor has to do one on ones every week.

Chip Griffin  

Right? Yeah. And that, to me is the one thing that that is set in stone, and that I think every agency should do religiously. And that is weekly one on one, every manager with their direct report. Every week, no questions asked. There’s no reason not to do that. If you can’t handle that you’ve got too many direct reports or you’ve got something else wrong with your calendar. So solve that. Don’t get rid of that those weekly one on ones.

Gini Dietrich  

Yeah, those and you’re a big proponent of this too. But those have to happen. You can’t run an agency. If you’re not meeting weekly with your with your direct reports. You just can’t.

Chip Griffin  

Yep, I mean, it is it is the most important meeting of your week even more important than client meetings. Yep. Yep. As far as totally agree having success. So. So okay, so we agree on the one on ones now. So now the question is, and there are these different kinds of formats. There’s the the daily standup, which is very popular in some agencies, obviously, the weekly staff meeting has been popular for decades, and just about every agency that I can think of, a lot of it depends on how many folks you have for it, right? So if you’re 100 person agency, you’re probably not going to get together for a weekly staff meeting. Right? That seems unnecessary. It’s possible, probably unnecessary. So my general rule of thumb is that the smaller your group, the more frequent the meetings should be, right? So a daily stand up with even 20 people isn’t going to be the easiest thing. You still get that right. But But daily, daily meetings tend to be for small groups, small team, so portions of your agency might be having those you know, if you’ve got a digital team or a writing team or something like that, they may take advantage of those opportunities to get together. And if you’re small enough, maybe it’s the whole team, but it’s, you know, so part of it’s the size but but a lot of it’s driven by what you’re trying to accomplish, right every meeting you have, no matter whether you got two people in it or 200 to people, there has to be a purpose, you have to know what you’re trying to accomplish.

Gini Dietrich  

Yeah, I agree with that. And I do agree that you know, you can’t have a daily standup with 100 people, but when you when you start to break it down, and maybe it’s true, you do a daily standup with your leadership, or you do this daily stand up with a client team, or whatever it happens to be, you can break it out that way. I don’t personally love the daily standup, because I think it’s overkill, but the team has asked for it. So we’re going to try it. Um, the other thing that they’ve asked for is a two week sprint process, which I know works really well for engineering and data teams. And I haven’t quite figured out yet how it’s going to work for our team, but we’re gonna try it and see what happens. So that we have these two week sprints that we’re, and that’s based on agency growth, not on client stuff. So, you know, it may work. It may not, I’m a little bit skeptical, but we are going to try try that process as well.

Chip Griffin  

Yeah, look,mthere’s nothing wrong with trying things and because some of it comes down to the dynamic of the individual team and the personalities involved and, and how they work. I mean, I I’m like you I, I’m not a giant fan of daily stand ups, or daily sit downs, however you want to do it, you know, I find that that oftentimes, most of what’s accomplished there could easily be done through email or slack or something like that. And so that’s to me, that’s the that’s another key ingredient, when you’re figuring out what your meeting schedule is, make sure that the meetings are actually adding value by having everybody there at the same time. And by voice, right, whether you’re doing a video or just audio, you make sure that people actually interact in these meetings. If it’s just you go around the table, and everybody reports something and then you walk away. That’s not real helpful. Do that by email, do that by slack, there’s not, there’s not back and forth. And so if you start doing these kinds of meetings, and you see that it is just everybody reporting, either get them to report in writing in advance, and then cherry pick things to talk about or switch it so that there is some interactivity in that meeting somehow.

Gini Dietrich  

Yeah, I always look at meetings, especially especially with younger employees as an opportunity for them to showcase something that they’re working on. So sometimes they start out by giving us a status report, because we just don’t have the experience, right. And I use that opportunity to sort of coach them along. So eventually, it’s, Hey, I took this SEO training or, and here’s what I learned, or I took this masterclass with Malcolm Gladwell, and this is what I learned are, you know, they’re, they’re doing those kinds of things. Now, eventually, they do those kinds of things, so that everybody has the benefit of learning together. And then we also use the all company meetings as an opportunity to talk about, you know, vision and plans and goals and objectives and where we are against school and all that. So it’s really about here’s what we’re trying to achieve. And here’s all the work that you’re doing to help us get there. Right?

Chip Griffin  

Well, I think you’ve touched on something else important there, which is you need to try to as the leader of these meetings, you need to try to elicit participation from Yeah, people present everyone. That doesn’t mean every meeting, they all they all have to participate equally, or anything like that, right. But you need to make sure that you’re drawing them into the conversation, again, to make sure that you’re actually taking advantage of the fact that you’ve got folks together. But also because it is that growth opportunity, particularly for younger employees. But frankly, for some of your senior ones, they may have areas they need to grow in, and you can take advantage of these meetings in order to help them with that.

Gini Dietrich  

Yeah, it’s funny you say that, because you know, I’ve been working on the client side for a client part time. And one of the things I noticed really early on is that they had these big marketing meetings, and it was just the leaders pontificating. And but what I discovered in after, you know, I was sort of watching and paying attention to the body language in the Zoom meetings, is that, you know, people were checking slack, or they were looking at their screen over here, or a couple of people were on Instagram. So I was like, No, we’re putting a stop to that. And we changed up the meeting so that everybody participated, which meant the first couple of meetings were pretty rough, because they were like, oh, you know, like putting their phones down. But now it’s become really engaging and thoughtful, because everybody has that opportunity to participate.

Chip Griffin  

Right? Yeah. And it’s, I mean, there’s, there’s no point in sitting there and just listening to people pontificate. There are so many other ways that you can accomplish that again, without, you know, wasting everybody’s time with me, because it’s not so much the time of the meeting. It’s that it’s in a fixed spot, right. So, you know, even if you say, Well, you know, we only have 20 minute meetings, you know, or even 10 minutes, we just do a daily 10 minute stand up. Well, yes, but it’s in a fixed spot on the calendar, which means that nobody can do anything else in that time, which makes it harder to schedule other things, right. So right, so your opportunity cost is very high for those kinds of things. And so you need to be cognizant of that not just the actual length of the meeting time know what else that’s doing to interrupt your your team’s day.

Gini Dietrich  

So I will say and you brought this up earlier, you know, like I said, I don’t love the daily huddle but we’re gonna try it. But we were doing it in Slack every morning. So it was, you know, as you log out log on, here are the things that I’m focused on today. And here’s, here’s, here’s the things I’ll probably need help with, from somebody on the team. And it was just a quick like, check in Good morning, blah, blah, blah, blah, boom. And then that was it. And I felt like that works really effectively. But other people on the team have decided that it’s not as effective as they would like. So we’ll try it and see.

Chip Griffin  

But look, you have to listen to employee feedback and, and understand them and give it a fair shot. If you still don’t think it’s working, though, don’t feel like you have to do it. You have to then say, okay, look, we tried it, here’s why I didn’t think it it worked. And here’s what we’re going to do instead. And, and, and then be open to hearing from them that, you know, you’re wrong. For some reason. Yeah, it’s healthy to have a dialogue. And actually, along those lines, too, as the owner, or any kind of a senior manager in your organization. When you have meetings, try to keep your mouth shut for the first part of a discussion. Because as soon as you start letting people know what your view on something is, it starts to shut down conversation. And it can also get people to, let’s say kiss up. So to the extent they do speak, they may say things that they they know you want to hear based on the position you’ve already outlined. Absolutely. So try to go around the room elicit ideas, suggestions, viewpoints from your team, before you weigh in. Because if you don’t, then it’s going to turn into something that you could have just made a YouTube video and given to your team.

Gini Dietrich  

Speaking of, I think that is a really great way to avoid some meetings as well. But I will tell you two things, our junior level employees do this amazing thing, which would make me crazy, but they love it, they open zoom, the same Zoom Room, and they quote unquote, work together. So it’s almost like they’re in a cubicle.

Chip Griffin  

This, I’ve never done this before, oh, it

Gini Dietrich  

drives me crazy. I would not like it, but they love it. They love it. So we encourage that, you know, and we have a room specific for that, that they use on Zoom. And you can log on and be there with your peers and ask questions and shout things back and forth, while you’re working on your own stuff. Log off to go to a meeting come back like that. So we keep that open all day for them. And we do encourage that. And the other thing is that I have found, especially for the younger generations that videos work really well. So if they’re trying to figure something out, or they don’t, they have questions and they don’t understand how to do something, we do a ton of tutorial videos. And they they grasp it a lot faster that way we have found. So we have a whole thing in notion where you know, if you want to learn how to optimize your content for a blog post, or you want to learn how to schedule content for social or you know, whatever it happens to be, we have all sorts of tutorial videos that avoid the Hey, can I can you grab five minutes on Zoom? Or 10 minutes on Zoom? And walk me through this? Yeah, I

Chip Griffin  

think training videos are a tremendous use of that, I think, announcement videos or you know, newsy type videos or, you know, keep them short. Yeah, yeah, training can be long, because you have to walk through the steps. If you’re, if you’re just sharing information, those have to be short, because my experience has been that, that employees will either not watch them at all, or they’ll put them on and they’ll do something else. And so they really absorb most of what it is. And, and so, you know, we do need to make sure that when we’re having meetings that we’ve got people’s attention part of that is by keeping them as as short as they can be while still accomplishing what you want. So I’m not again, I’m not in this category of there’s a, there’s an ideal length of time for meeting, it depends on what you’re trying to do, yeah, you’re perfectly worthwhile to our meetings, doesn’t mean you should do them regularly. If you’ve got a real purpose for him, and you’re accomplishing things, great, go for it. But you need to have the right amount of time for whatever you’re trying to accomplish. And that’s where knowing what you’re trying to accomplish making sure that everybody around the table knows what you’re trying to accomplish. And then having action items at the end will help make sure that you’re staying on track.

Gini Dietrich  

Yes. And the last thing I will add to this is that there are I have found to be very, very, very, very effective is to have a full day when you have no meetings. So for us, it’s Thursdays, I would prefer it be Friday, but it doesn’t really work out that way. Um, so on Thursdays, we don’t have many internal meetings, we try not to have client meetings. And that is the time that everybody on the team is focused on deep work. So they’re focused on the kinds of things that you know, take longer than 15 or 20 minutes that take longer than an hour. They’re focused on things that they might have to do together. So workshopping things together or things like that. And it’s it’s really effective. And we have found productivity rise incredibly high because of that and and You know, based on this two week sprint process that we’re putting into place that helps with that, too. So, I would say that there are not necessary you don’t, you don’t have to have a meeting every single day, especially even if you have a remote team that’s scattered across the country or the world. But they’re, you know, set into into motion at least one day a week where there are zero meetings so that people can get work done.

Chip Griffin  

Right. I think that’s really smart. And that’s, you know, I think it’s really important. We’ve talked about this before about the importance of being intentional with your own calendar, as an owner, but your team needs to be intentional need to work together to be intentional about and try to think through some of these things like how are we going to work together more effectively, how we’re going to make sure that we’re not eating up your day, with, you know, quick meetings, that could be emails or things like that. So, you know, give some thought to these things. And maybe you try to batch meetings together, you know, so we, you know, you do all your one on ones, either maybe first thing in the morning, or in one afternoon, a week, or you know, just figure out how it works for you and your team and, and the structure that you’ve got with your clients and all of that so that you can try to be as economical with your time as possible and getting the results that you need. Yeah, absolutely.

Gini Dietrich  

I’m, there are certainly needs for meetings, there certainly not needs for no meetings. And there certainly needs for for being able to really focus and get things done. So figure out what that works, how that works for your team. And and you’re you have a great point, just because you’re intentional about your calendar doesn’t mean that that works for your team. So make sure that they are as well, right. So

Chip Griffin  

you need to you know, y’all need to coordinate. So for and this, this is particularly true as you grow. If you’ve got a three or four person team, it’s a lot easier, you kind of know what everybody’s schedule is probably anyway, as you get up to 10, 15, 20 employees, okay, now you’re going to start being more thoughtful because you got sub teams and things like that. And so making sure that you’re coordinating these activities so that you don’t end up blowing up someone’s entire day with no fruit. Yeah, yeah, that’s, that’s truly unfortunate when you do that. But the other thing that you mentioned early on, I think was in the question as well. And we’ve touched on a little bit, but it’s the whole idea of the remote workers. And you sometimes you have to have more meetings simply to have a way to have them engaged, particularly if you are a hybrid agency, right? If you’ve got employees in the office and remote, you really have to think about those remote employees, particularly if it’s the owner, you’re one of the in office folks, because you’re having a lot more casual interaction with each other. And so you need to find a way to make sure that the remote folks aren’t being excluded. And you need to think about the technology of how you do the meetings. So if you’ve got an office staff, and you put everybody in a conference room, and then you throw up on the screen, a zoom with three remote people, that’s not necessarily the best experience. A lot of agencies have decided, if you have anyone remote that everybody will be on Zoom individually from their own desks instead of in a conference room, right? Because it’s, I mean, first of all, it’s hard to hear. But secondly, you don’t tend to pay as much attention to the folks up on the screen, who are the little dots versus the person who’s you know, real life and in person next to you. And so you really need to be thoughtful about those things. But if you’re all remote, you need to be thinking about that too. Because you want to make sure that everybody’s sort of on a level playing field. Right. So you should decide, is this the cameras on or cameras off? Meeting? Right? Don’t have half on and half off? Because that drives me crazy. You know, that’s that’s just that’s ends up creating a bizarre environment. Yeah. And, you know, so you’ve got the people are on camera feeling like, well, I’m paying attention, but do I know if the person who’s not being seen is right, because you know, they’ve got their, their phone out in there. Right? Yeah. Looking at Instagram, or Tiktok. Right, right. Yeah. And if you’re doing meetings in office, you might have the policy that an old colleague of mine used to have, which is when he has meetings he takes, he makes everybody take their phone and put it facedown on the table in front of you. So that if you grab it, and look at it, everybody’s gonna know that whereas you know, if you got it under the table, you know, it’s often easy to have it overlooked. So be thinking about all of these different things, how often you’re having meetings, what’s the content? What are you trying to accomplish? What’s the format, what’s the technology that you’re using all of these things, will help you be more productive, because you’re being more thoughtful about the meetings that you’re having, making sure that you’re really taking advantage of every minute of your team’s day and not wasting it away.

Gini Dietrich  

And I will say, just as on the hybrid piece of it. We have a client that did a half a day workshop a couple of weeks ago. And you know, it was it was hybrid. Some of us were remote, and some of them weren’t the client team was in the office, but they were wearing masks. They, for those of us on Zoom, I had no idea what they were saying, right? No, I did. You can’t read their lips. You can’t you can’t hear them anyway. And then you add that on top. It was it was really tough. So I like the idea of if you’re going to do a hybrid meeting that everybody’s on their on zoom from their office, or they stay home or whatever happens to be,

Chip Griffin  

yeah, and particularly these days, because I mean, you know, 20 years ago when I was doing conferences, calls and I was maybe the remote person at least people use you know high end Polycomms in the office. Right? Right common thing to see. Right. And those for those, for those young uns out there who have never seen the Polycom you know, they’re funky looking phones but they had excellent microphones yeah did a great job of picking up people around the table not perfect. It’s so wasn’t as good as actually being there. But now a lot of people just you know, throw a phone in the middle of the table or someone’s laptop. And those microphones are not good for me. It’s terrible. It’s terrible, terrible. And so even if they’re not wearing masks, it’s not great. But certainly once you throw the masks into the equation, it can make it

Gini Dietrich  

Yeah, it’s more challenging. And that was rough. It was rough. It was a rough meeting.

Chip Griffin  

Yeah. So anyway, hopefully, we’ve given some people some some good ideas for how to improve their their meeting schedule and content. And so I guess with that, we’ll we’ll draw this episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast to a close and maybe we’ll change your own pre show meeting. Who knows? Probably not possible. Anything’s possible. So sometimes we take our own advice, but you know, more often it’s, you know, do as I say, not as I do correct. On that note, I’m Chip Griffin,

Gini Dietrich  

and I’m Gini Dietrich,

Chip Griffin  

and it depends.

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