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Friday, 28 July 2017 15:41

Huddles or Hurdles? It's Your Choice

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Huddles or Hurdles? It's Your Choice
By Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette

Let's start with some locker room talk. No, not that kind...

This morning, at the Y, I overheard a conversation between two guys who were, like most of the rest of us, getting dressed and groomed in preparation for a day at the office. Guy Number One observed aloud that Guy Number Two seemed to be moving pretty fast, to which Two replied, "Yeah, I have to be in early today. We're having one of our 'huddles'," the latter word being punctuated by both air quotes and an unmistakable eye roll. "Or, as I call them," he said, 'hurdles'. My boss is on this new kick. It's total BS. What a waste of time."

Wow. Huddles. Hurdles. Pretty clever, I thought. But sad.

Team huddles at work should be anything but a waste of time. Done right, they can be like a healthy breakfast - a great kickoff for the day. High protein, energizing, and sustaining. Done wrong? Well, they elicit air quotes and eye rolls, and they suck the engagement out of everyone on the team.

Huddles, at work, like on the playing field or court are simply a quick gathering of the team, with one aim: helping the team win. They're part enthusiasm, part announcement of anything new or significant, part clarification of what a good shift will look like, and a quick check to see if anyone needs anything.

The kind of huddles I'm talking about work best face to face, with groups smaller than 15 or so. Teams who usually work in the same workspace at the same time of day. If this doesn't describe your team, huddles may not be for you. So you may have to get creative about accomplishing the same thing in a different way.

When we teach our clients about huddles, we talk about both format, and content. How to conduct them, and what to include.

Format:

  • Huddles can be led by the manager. Or not. Managers, we recommend you lead them some of the time (most of the time at first), and share the responsibility other times. Don't "make" anyone lead them. Some will jump at the chance, and not always the right ones. Others may need some coaching and encouragement, which is yours to provide.
  • They should rarely be more than 5 to 10 minutes long. Sometimes shorter. Anything longer than that...we call that a meeting. Huddles are high altitude. No weeds. Your team members' enthusiasm in attending your huddles varies inversely with the duration thereof.
  • First thing in the morning seems to work best for most groups. Like my workout at the Y, if I don't do it first thing, the day gets in the way. But, also like the workout, later is better than not at all.
  • They should be open to everyone on the team, and mandatory for everyone who is planning on playing today. If you're doing them well, people won't want to miss them.
  • Have an agenda, but not a script. No babbling or rambling allowed. People have work to do. Your agenda should fit, handwritten, on something like a 3x5 card, or even a Post-It note.
  • How often? Every shift, every day! Even if it's no more than a 30 second "good morning" on those days when you're tempted to skip it, that's fine, but the game is played at too fast a pace today to miss it altogether even for a day.

Content:

Note: the first three items on this list are the most important. Don't do everything else on the list every time. You'll never do it in 5 to 10 minutes. Pick and choose. Add your own items.

  • Substance. The worst thing you can do with a huddle is to waste people's time. Make it worth their while.What's going on that people need to know about? Updates. Pertinent developments. New clients. New projects. New stuff. News. Real news. Not fake.
  • Highlight successes - of the group, or individuals in it. This is one of the most important and valuable elements of a huddle, and should be a big part of every huddle you have...provided there are successes to highlight.
  • Share tricks and tips to serve your customers better. A challenge for the team - not like a problem challenge. A good challenge. "I challenge you to..." (see final paragraph below.)
  • Birthdays, work anniversaries, other special days or spot recognitions for people on the team.
  • Reinforce some team lesson: "Remember how we've always said that... Well, here's an example from just last week."
  • Share stories - mostly successes, or, in rarer cases, cautionary tales.
  • Ask questions. Examples:
    • What's going well?
    • What needs work?
    • How have you solved that problem?
    • What help do you need?

Maybe close with something you've heard or read lately. An inspirational quote or thought. Nothing cheesy, please.

What a huddle is NOT:

  • A gripe session
  • A rah-rah rally. See the above reference to substance.
  • An opportunity to chew someone out in front in their peers
  • Tooting your own horn (the team's horn, yes. The manager's horn, never.)
  • An intricate planning session
  • Brainstorming
  • Devoted to bad news. Find another way.

Here's my challenge to you: If you're not already holding daily huddles... start. When? Soon. Right after you plan your first one. Develop a discipline. Make it a habit. If huddles are already a regular part of your communication strategy, congratulations! I hope some of the pointers above help make your huddles better.

Richard Hadden

Richard Hadden is an author, speaker, and workplace expert who helps leaders create a better, more profitable place to work. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Learn more about Richard, Bill, and their work at ContentedCows.com.

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