How Aspirational Meetings Boost Team Productivity - Interview With Chester Elton

6 min read
Vlad Kovalskiy
July 23, 2014
Last updated: April 5, 2023
How Aspirational Meetings Boost Team Productivity - Interview With Chester Elton
We continue our series of interviews with team productivity experts. Today we talked to Chester Elton, one of world's top experts on employee motivation and change management, and the author of All In, The Carrot Principle and The Orange Revolution.

We see that simple things like replacing emails with group chat or private social network can significantly increase team productivity. What other simple, cheap and quick to implement things can companies do to receive immediate and noticeable productivity boost?

Regular one on one "aspirational" meetings are a wonderful way to boost engagement and productivity. I learned this from Qunit Studder who has done wonderful work with healthcare organizations but I think it applies to every kind of business.

An aspirational meeting can be built around 4 simple questions:

  1. Have we kept our promises to you?
  2. What do you think we do well around here?
  3. What have you seen in other jobs you have had that if we did here would make us better?
  4. Have we done anything that might cause you to leave us?
End the meeting with the bonus question, "Where do you want to be in 5 years?" and I think you have the basis for an excellent view of where your people are and where they want to be while gathering wonderful and insightful information along the way. Done at regular intervals and trust will be built up quite quickly and engaging dialogues will be the norm. With managers that have lots of direct reports this will be a real commitment, but one that is sure to pay big dividends in the long term.

Group meetings – how often should one hold them, how long should they be and do you even need them?

As often as possible. When you are all in the same location I recommend at the beginning and end of every shift. They do not need to be long. Stand up meetings are the best. Have a simple agenda and get through the points quickly. It helps you all stay connected.
One nice idea is to start the meeting every time with a little recognition moment. Highlight someone who has done a great job. Wee are very good about pointing out mistakes. Let's get good at pointing out success too.

Companies are relying more on remote employees and teleworkers. Some claim that it reduces productivity, like Yahoo. First, do you agree and second, can you share some tips about managing distributed teams effectively?

It is easy for remote employees to feel disconnected. I don't believe it needs take away from productivity. I think that happens with lack of communication and a sense of team. If you are in touch regularly with your remote employees there should be no excuse for a drop off in productivity. One manager I knows goes old school with remote employees. He call them up on the phone for regular chats! She claims it works wonders.

A great number of social productivity tools appeared on the market within the past few years – social intranets, enterprise social networks, social collaboration platforms. What do you make of this trend and how do you see it developing further?

Of course. I think we will see many more digital ways to connect and meet. Video chatting will get better and higher quality. I am a little traditional in that when all is said and done I think nothing is better than a face to face meeting. We are social animals and while these ideas will help us be more efficient for really important stuff nothing beats face to face.

Standards, protocols, routines – a lot of expert advise to create standard procedures that employees should follow and claim that this increases worker productivity. But workers say that it kills their productivity, increases turnover and so on. How do you find balance between the two?

Know you team and what their motivators are. Standard policies should be guidelines. Let the managers have the freedom to adapt those to their teams and the individuals they are managing. If we get too caught up in following the rules I think we lose sight of the bigger picture which is to innovate, serve the customer and get things done!

Thank you, Chester!

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