Dear Roland,

I recently got hired as the second in command at a well-known scale-up. I have twelve people working under me. The founder/CEO wants me to show that I can make my whole team work together better. I’ve heard about daily huddles—could be the way to go for us? Do you have any tips on how to make the most of them?

Kind Regards,
Redwood Shores

Dear Dynawoman!

First of all, congrats on your new position! Coming in as a new leader is the best time for both you and your team to try out new ways of working. Your key priority is to improve cooperation. Do you feel the twelve people in your team trust each other enough for that?

Meetings are awesome in potential—but so often terrible in reality. Meetings without anyone knowing why they are there or what outcome you expect, are a huuuge waist of time.

This is why we teach our scale-up clients to set up strict routines for meetings. We advocate daily huddles, weekly team meetings, monthly deep-dives and quarterly offsites. Each of these comes with their own purpose, timing, recommended agenda and output. When everyone knows what each type of meeting is for and how they can contribute, meetings run much smoother.

Especially if you need to build some mutual trust, your intuition is 100% correct. Daily huddles are an excellent practice to get everyone on the same page. Meeting every day clears up your email, your chat channels and especially all the 1-1s you hold. With only 15 minutes a day, everyone stays connected, invested and informed.

To make daily huddles most effective, hold them at the exact same time each day. Make sure they last max. 15 minutes and stay on point. Ask everyone:

  1. What’s on their mind (not only work-wise)
  2. Where they are stuck and/or could use help
  3. What is the one thing they want to doefore the next huddle.

Plan individual talk time to fit into roughly 12 minutes (leaving 25% slack). See the equation. E.g. with seven participants, each person gets roughly 35 seconds to answer each question. Assign someone else than the leader to time people and cut speakers off. This will boost the energy level and the flow.

For those meeting face to face, try standing up. That will give you a more energetic meeting and it is easier for everyone to keep it shorter. For those working remotely, the added overhead of a video conference is not necessary. I recommend an audio-only conference line such as Uberconference, which can also dial out to everyone at the exact time the huddle starts. Very useful!

Finally, have your team commit to daily huddles for at least three months. During that time, steer emails, chats and 1-1 requests back to the daily huddle. Daily huddles are a habit that needs to form, like muscle memory. Do not give people’s initial skepticism an opportunity to derail daily huddles prematurely!