Every Friday, 80 men and women gather over beer, wine, and snacks to chat about their week and their jobs. They talk about their successes, challenges, and what they're working on.

It sounds like your average happy hour, but the "Friday Afternoon Club" is actually a staple in the premium services infrastructure unit at Yahoo. The meeting is informal but regular and provides a relaxed outlet for the team to connect and share ideas.

Meetings get a bad rap, but regular team meetings are absolutely essential to a company's success. There are lots of great tools out there that foster collaboration among teammates, but nothing beats regular face-to-face meetings for bringing employees together and growing your company.

Face time increases transparency

If your team mainly communicates via digital channels, you may be wondering what you could get from a face-to-face meeting that you can't get from a team chat.

Well, the truth is that people today have grown very adept at cultivating a specific digital personality. Everyone does this online. They try to be confident and positive, and if a project manager is struggling with something, he may fall silent on chat.

Regular in-person meetings break down these carefully constructed images, increasing trust and transparency in teams. Not only do you benefit from visual cues when meeting face to face, but meetings also help people develop a social identity for how they fit into the group and encourage participation.

Meetings also provide an opportunity for leaders to share their vision for the company. When employees understand the decision-making process, it's much easier for them to get on board with company goals.

Huddles foster creativity

The ability to contribute to a shared vision is the magic behind those 2 a.m. breakthroughs that are part of every startup story. When people sit around to bounce ideas off one another, it sparks amazing creativity.

In his book Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson talks about the research of Kevin Dunbar, who studied scientists in the lab. He discovered that the best ideas weren't the brainchild of a mad scientist working alone but rather a byproduct of regular lab meetings.

The human collective is much more creative than one person working alone, because employees' individual experiences bump up against one another, forming new associations and revealing intriguing possibilities.

How to make it work

Groundbreaking brainstorm sessions aside, it's true that meetings can be a huge waste of time if managed incorrectly.

At my company, we treasure our weekly team meetings, and we've learned a few ways to make this time effective:

  1. Ban computers. If employees are on their computers, it shows that they aren't engaged. We operate on an honor system--if something comes up that can't wait, employees quietly leave the meeting.
  2. Provide food. We time our meetings with our weekly catered lunches. Good food and good conversation make everybody happy, which sets a positive tone for the meeting.
  3. Give important updates. Our team is growing like crazy right now, and the weekly meeting is an ideal time to introduce new team members, talk about new partnerships, and give product updates.
  4. Show appreciation. "Appreciations" are probably the most important part of our meeting. We take time to genuinely celebrate teammates who are doing a stellar job.
  5. Leave time for questions. Our meetings include a breakdown of the numbers, and the team is encouraged to ask management the hard questions. This increases transparency and trust in leadership.

Of course, every company is different. If a weekly meeting isn't realistic for your company, consider holding weekly scrums with different teams or organizing cross-team scrums. At the very least, plan for a quarterly retreat to get everyone on the same page.

Company culture is an important indicator of company health. If you can manage your regular meetings well, you'll soon see a boost in company transparency, creativity, and eventually sales.

Published on: Nov 10, 2014