how to hold a remarkably effective team huddle

How to Hold a Remarkably Effective Team Huddle

When Karin was in her sales exec role at Verizon, she would often walk into the back door of a store to find her highest performing team huddled just before the store opened, talking about their plans for the day. When she walked in the back door of the lower performing stores at the same time of the day, everyone was off doing their own thing.

We’ve seen this trend play out time and time again…in contact centers, sales teams, engineering teams, PMOs…

Show us a group of team leaders who share the same role, and we guarantee that the ones with the best results have mastered the art of the team huddle.

Of course, the best front-line leaders are doing a lot of things right. A great team huddle is just part of the cocktail. But we’ve never met a high-performing team where the team leader didn’t include a great team huddle as part of their operating plan.

How to Make Your Team Huddle Great

1. Set a clear intention.

When a basketball coach calls a timeout and huddles the team, she knows EXACTLY why. She doesn’t start with “How’s everyone doing?” “Anyone have anything they want to share?”  Ask yourself “What’s the most important message I want my team to take away from this huddle, and how will I know they’ve got it?”

2. Structure your topics.

Another big mistake we see with team huddles is they lack structure. To make your team huddle effective and efficient, pick a few topics and prepare what you need in advance. If you will review results, pick the ones you want to hit and the most important behaviors you want your team to focus on this week. “Sales results are down this month, I really need everyone to hustle” is not nearly as impactful as “Our sales are soft on X product across the board, except for Laura and Drew, who have doubled their sales this month. Can you each share about what you’re doing?”

A few topics that work well in a quick team huddle (pick just a few each time)

  • Reinforce your MIT priorities for the week.
  • Review results and the “So what?” behind them.
  • Provide important updates (that you will also reinforce in other ways).
  • Reinforce key elements from training (have them teach what they learned).
  • Recognize and celebrate contributions.
  • Solicit concerns/invite escalation.
  • Share best practices.
  • Solicit input on ideas.
  • Round robin “What do you need help with and from who?”

3. Prepare some provocative questions

The easiest way to get your team to tune out of a huddle is to do all the talking. Prepare a few provocative questions (it’s great to send them out in advance, so your people have time to think through their answers). You can even text the questions in advance. You might also consider starting your huddle with these meaningful icebreaker questions. 

A few questions to spark conversation

  • What are you hearing from our customers?
  • How do you think we can fix ___?
  • What specific help do you need this week?
  • What’s getting in the way?

4. Check for understanding

Just because you’ve said something doesn’t mean that you’ve communicated. Has your team picked up what you put down? For any key message, be sure to do a check for understanding where the team shares back what they’ve heard.

5. Recap and Reinforce

Just as with any meeting end with the simple magic meeting formula: “Who will do what, by when, and how will we know?”

Done well, a team huddle can serve as a remarkable way to keep your team focused on what matters most.

Your turn

What are your best practices for a remarkable team huddle?

If you’re looking to improve team communication, you might also try our quick team communication check.

Other great articles on team huddles

How Simple Team Huddles Can Make a Business Better (Forbes)

Why the Team Huddle is Your Most Important Meeting

Posted in Communication, courageous cultures.

Karin Hurt David Dye

Karin Hurt and David Dye help leaders achieve breakthrough results without losing their soul. They are keynote leadership speakers, trainers, and the award-winning authors of Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul. Karin is a top leadership consultant and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. David Dye is a former executive, elected official, and president of Let's Grow Leaders, their leadership training and consulting firm.

4 Comments

  1. Haha, I actually had to idea that this kind of get-together is called a “huddle”. Might be because I’m not from the US, but the word was completely new to me. 🙂

    Anyway, thanks for the great list!

    • Thanks so much, Fred. It’s always fun to hear differences in practices and what they’re called in various parts of the world. Where are you based? And, I’m curious, what would you call it?

  2. In the Army I’ve always had a morning “stand-up” with my staff. It’s an opportunity for me to put out some quick guidance, and then each of my deputies has an opportunity to identify any issues or key events. The main ground rule is that we actually stand (hence the name), and it is kept brief. No more than 5-10 minutes.

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