Meetings are often the primary way a team works together. The format and process of team meetings affects how a team works together, their sense of purpose, and their ability to innovate. By changing the format of a meeting you can increase trust among team members, improve communication, and do better work together. In this episode, learn five ways to begin your meeting that will help build your team to be even stronger.

What You’ll Learn

  • Why starting a meeting with a short activity can help your team be more productive and focused
  • Five ways to begin your meeting that will help you focus on your goals and increase camaraderie and trust


The Weekly Challenge

Try one or more of the meeting openers at your next meeting. What happened? How did it affect the meeting? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Feel like reading instead of listening? Download the PDF transcript here or read below. Enjoy!

Welcome to The Deliberate Creative Podcast Episode 56. Today I am going to share with you five team activities you can use next time you start a team meeting. This episode has actually been inspired by my clients. Recently I have been using the Creative Synergy Scale with some of my clients. The scale is designed to help teams understand their strengths and areas they need to improve to help them be more creative together. Particularly, it looks at three different areas: their team purpose, their team creative process and their team dynamics.

One of the things that has come up in many of the conversations with clients that I have had, as we were debriefing the scale, is that the process teams use in their meetings and how they work together really it affects everything they do. It affects how they understand their purpose, it affects how creative they feel together, it affects how much they trust each other. So a common question I get is how do we increase that trust and communication within our team to help improve our team dynamics. There are many factors that can improve trust and communication, but one of the big ones that is actually pretty easy to change is the format and the process of meetings. Because meetings are how we engage with each other. For most teams that is their primary interaction. They meet either weekly or sometimes daily depending on the type of team it is and the format and the structure and the process of those meetings has a big impact on how they work together.

In this episode I share five simple ways that you can begin your meetings to help you increase trust, communication, to help you increase focus and creativity and really to make the meetings more productive. Not every activity will fit every meeting, so select the opening based on your goal. What is the purpose of the meeting? When you are designing a meeting you want to be very intentional with what you are including in that meeting. If you are a regular listener, you may have heard me say this before, but let’s imagine that you have a team who meets for one hour and there are ten people on that team, so essentially that is ten hours of work. Let’s say that the average employee makes $50,000 who is on that team. That is the average. That meeting, that one-hour meeting, could cost your organization about $250 based on their average salary. So make sure that you design your meetings with some intention so that you are spending that money wisely. Meetings are expensive, but I think they also can be very powerful and they can push the work of your team forward significantly if they are designed well and the time is used well.

I am going to give you five activities and each of these activities allows individual team members to share more about themselves to the extent that they are comfortable. They will have a chance to get to know each other better, which can help increase empathy and understanding and trust within a team, but that is not necessarily the main purpose of these opening activities. In some ways that is just an additional outcome. The main purpose is to help ground and focus people within the meeting topics, which then helps the team be more productive and more creative. Here are the five activities.

1.    Use a Simple Prompt [04:09]

By prompt I mean you are asking a question, you are throwing a question out there and then everybody at the table, everybody in the meeting has the opportunity to respond and give their response. You always want to align that prompt to the content of the meeting. Let’s say that you work in education and you are in the process of changing something in the middle schools, particularly around college and career readiness for your students. One prompt you might use is you might ask people in the meetings — say it is a group of teachers — you might ask them to “think back to when they were in middle school. What is one way you learned about college and career options as a middle schooler?  How did you know that college was an option or how did you know the different career options that you could take?” That is an example of a prompt that you might use.

Asking people about their personal experience related to the content helps them connect with that content. And as you go around and you hear everybody, you get these different perspectives in the room and you realize that there are probably some similarities and there are probably some differences of people’s own experiences. And then you can use that to lead into talking about the changes that you all might make as a school or as a district. That is an example of a prompt. You could come up with anything, whatever the topic of your meeting is, whether it is the budget, whether it is some other change initiative, whether it is a big problem that the organization faced. Anything you want can become a prompt.

2.    Use a Simple Likert Scale [06:00]

Another option is to use a simple Likert Scale. I call this The Fist to Five Finger Scale. It is a way for people to be quantitative in their response, but you are also going to have them share and explain why they responded. A Likert Scale could be anything, one to five, zero to five in this case so we are using fist to five. So they are going to hold up their hand, a fist if they have all their fingers closed that is a zero, they hold up one finger that is a one, five fingers that is a five. You might ask them to share something about how well they know about a topic or how well they understand something and then they will articulate why they rated themselves the way they did.

Let’s say that you are in the process of revamping your website and this meeting is focused on the website. You might ask people, “On a scale of fist to five, how passionate are you about revamping our website?” Everyone will hold up their fingers and then you can just go around the room and have each person share like, “Well, I am a one because I think the website is fine.” Somebody else might be like, “I am a five because I think there is so much potential and I see a lot of errors and problems.” Somebody else might be a three and they can share. Actually you could even use that passion that maybe there are three people that are a five and they end up being the three primary people that are tackling that issue of redesigning the website. It just is a good way kind of to figure out where people are at with something.

In that example you are looking at people’s passion but you could also look at what do you know about the topic. It could be like you are doing a meeting and you are going to talk about some conflict resolution or maybe you are talking about a policy, actually, then you might share like how well do you know this policy that we are going to talk about? And then they share a fist to five. Anyway, that is the fist to five finger scale using a typical Likert Scale. So that is the second idea.

3.    Use Climer Cards [08:19]

The third idea is actually to use Climer Cards, which are a deck of cards that I have created. If you are a regular listener, you have heard me talk about them before. Climer Cards are a team building and creativity tool and there are hundreds of ways to use them. One of my favorite things about them is that I hear from people all the time about new ways that they are using them. If you want a visual, go to You will see them. You will also be able to order them right there from the website. What you do is you lay out these cards, there are 52 in a deck and they have all these images, kind of iconic, hand-drawn, bright-colored images. You lay them all out, image side up, and then you are going to ask the team to select a card that is a metaphor for … and then you are going to fill in the blank there.

Let’s imagine that you all are working on a project together. You have been working on it for a little while and you want to spend some time like let’s look at some of the problems and challenges with this project that we need to address. You might select a card that is a metaphor for one of the risks we face with our project. And then again everyone has a card, they share their card and then they share their reaction and their comment of what that risk is. It is just an amazing way to get conversation going.

There is something about the images on the cards that helps people talk about things and have conversations in a way that they might not otherwise. That is the response that I get from other consultants and team leaders and managers when they have used the cards, they are like, “Wow! People say more than they would have said if we did not have Climer Cards.” So I highly recommend those. They are $20. You can get them online. They usually ship out within a day or two. You do not have to use Climer Cards. I do not mean for this to be a commercial. You could create your own, you can tear images out of a magazine or use postcards, there is even some other products out there that are similar. But something about the images and having people respond to that and create a metaphor can be really powerful. So that is another activity idea.

4.    One Sentence Check-in [10:48]

The fourth one is simply a one sentence check-in. Let’s say that you are having a meeting and the previous night you had a big event with your organization that maybe this team was a part of either developing or just participating in. You want to get some reaction from the team members, what do they think of it. So you might start out by having everybody share one sentence that sums up how they felt about the event last night. And everybody shares the one sentence, it just takes a couple of minutes and then from there you can have more in-depth conversation. So one sentence check-in, it is quick, it is easy, and it can get you all focused on the topic.

5.    Sharing Stories About Values or the Purpose of the Team [11:33]

The fifth example I want to share is actually inspired by one of my clients, Toppers Pizza. Toppers Pizza, if you are not familiar with them, they are a pizza franchise. I think they are may be in 13 or 15 states around the United States. They have five values that they really hold dearly that are very important to them. Everybody working with Toppers will be able to say these five values. Those values are; live with integrity, have fun, build something special, bring it with passion, and give customers what they want. They start off every meeting, whether it is a small meeting or a large meeting, giving participants an opportunity to share stories about the values. They just open it up and say, “Okay, who has some stories to share?” And people can stand up or raise their hand and they share a story about any of those five values. It might be something like say live with integrity; it might be an example that they saw from a colleague or even a customer or it might even be something that happened last night at the dinner table at their house. It does not necessarily have to even be work related, but the purpose of that is that every single meeting they are getting grounded in their values and they are helping people to think about their values, not just in the context of work, but really in the context of life.

One of the things that I identified in designing the Creative Synergy Scale was that teams need to have a strong sense of purpose and part of that is understanding their values. And so Toppers is doing a great job of helping their team members and all their employees have that sense of purpose that yeah, we make pizza but it is so much more than that. We provide these amazing meals for people, they are very intentional about the ingredients they use, they are very thoughtful and they want to impart that on all their employees and that is one of the ways they do that. So asking people to share stories about their values or really about — insert whatever you want. If it is not values, maybe it is purpose, but that can just be another powerful way to start the meeting. I would say at every meeting they maybe spend four to five minutes on this. It is not long, but it has a strong impact on their organization.

I have just shared with you five ways that you can open up your next meeting. I am just going to review them really quick.

  1. A prompt; asking a question that aligns back to the content of the meeting and then having everybody share.
  2. Fist to five finger scale, where people can share their perspective on a scale of zero to five.
  3. Using Climer Cards and selecting a card that is a metaphor for the topic.
  4. A one sentence check-in.
  5. Sharing stories about values or the purpose of the team and the purpose of the organization and giving people a chance to talk about experiences that they have seen or been a part of.

Those are five different ways you can open up your next meeting.

The Weekly Challenge [14:55]

As you can guess, your weekly challenge this week is going to be to try one of these five activities. Think about your meeting, think about the purpose of that meeting and select one that is going to be the best fit for the purpose of your meeting. One of my pet peeves is when people want to have more of an experiential approach in their meetings and they just randomly do things and they are not thinking through how it actually aligns with the purpose of what they are trying to get at. So be thoughtful about that and know that it is okay if you miss. You might even share with your team, “Hey, I’m trying something new, let me know what you think,” and then you lead that experience for them.

However, try it a few times. Do not just try it once. I would say try it five times. Maybe try each of these ones over the next five weeks or the next five meetings that you are a part of and see what happens. See how it changes your team. Do they get to know each other better? Does it help increase empathy and understanding and trust with the team? I would love to hear your feedback. Shoot me an email, let me know. Send me a tweet on Twitter if that is easiest. Whatever is easiest for you, let me know what happens. I would love to hear your feedback. It is always cool to hear how this podcast is impacting people so thank you for all of you that have shared your comments with me. It is so awesome to hear your feedback.

All right you all, thank you so much for listening to The Deliberate Creative Podcast. I hope this was helpful for you. Please stay in touch. You can find me on Twitter. I actually am now on Instagram. I am not sharing a whole lot there yet, but go check me out and follow me on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and I am on Facebook under Climer Consulting. I am also going to share with you a free download for this podcast. So if you want a list of these five team building activities, these openers, you can download those here.

All right you all, have a wonderful creative amazing week and I will see you next time. Bye.


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