Team meetings that actually create value

Team meetings that actually create value

While Melbourne residents have been freezing and struggling to come to terms with the mood swings of the weather, I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time in the tropical heaven that is Bali.

The hotel I stayed at had a bar/restaurant by the pool, which is a standard feature of most holiday resort venues across the world, but one thing that stood out to me was the daily team meetings that the bar manager would have.

Twice a day – immediately after the breakfast and lunch clean-ups the manager would gather his team of 10 staff members and have an in-depth discussion. Without being able to hear the conversation there was still a lot to observe.

These meetings were two-way conversations

Most managers use team meetings as a way to deliver their message, the next round of orders and the expectations of the group. The most notable aspect of the meetings I saw was that each employee was given a chance to talk to the group for a minute or two. This was done without interruption around the group before the manager would then facilitate a dialogue between the staff members, encouraging them to learn off each other.

The customer service I witnessed was amazing

The team gave every type of service that you would expect: prompt delivery of menu, drinks and food; big, friendly smiles and an ‘anything you like’ attitude. However, this isn’t enough for me to go and write a blog on – it was all the small touches above those standard offerings that made all the difference. Firstly, my family would often sit in a group of five or six, so whenever we approached the bar/restaurant the staff would quickly rearrange the furniture to accommodate, without us even asking. They knew my name and my preferred orders and would often have a drink ready for me on arrival.

What were they talking about?

Two short meetings per day for a team of 10 servicing half a hotel (there was another bar/restaurant on the other side of the hotel) would seem totally excessive to most managers. What could they possibly discuss? My guess is that they were all sharing notes and insights into the individual preferences of the hotel guests. Obviously the usual discussions around roadblocks to providing service (were there any problems yesterday, do we need to restock anything, etc.) would have been covered, but this would not require input from each member of the team. 

How often does your team talk about the people it interacts with?

So often we have meetings about doing. What is the status of the project? What are we waiting for? What is the roadblock? What are the goals? What resources do we need? But when, apart from tea room complaining, do teams actually talk about how they interact with the people they serve and rely on? If customers are constantly complaining about an issue it should highlight an urgent need for change. If a team member does something for a customer that delights them then everyone in the group should hear about it try to offer the same.

If other departments (read, groups of people) are stopping the team from doing its job effectively then as a group there should be discussion and problem-solving attempts to rectify the situation. Perhaps the workflow needs to be changed, or perhaps information could be provided in a more digestible way? Think about how much more productive this is than complaining, or relying on the manager to ‘sort it out’ with another manager.

We are all in the service industry now

When looking at a restaurant or bar the service offering is simple: deliver food and drinks to people. But there is a lot that can go wrong and a lot of opportunity to make people both happy and disappointed. Most of us work for companies whose product ranges and service offerings are much more varied, require the input of several departments and much more difficult to put together than bar snacks and fruit juices. Despite this, the focus of more complicated companies seems to shift evermore towards product tweaking and internal work, when it should actually shift in the opposite direction to being more interactive and customer oriented.

So although it sounds excessive – perhaps a daily team meeting discussing the interpersonal challenges of the team isn’t such a crazy idea?



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