Best practices from 1,000+ managers on how to share progress with your team as a leader.
It’s 9:24 am on Monday during your weekly staff meeting or daily stand-up meeting, and someone says: “I had no idea we were working on that.”
“Wait, what? How is that possible?” you think to yourself. Oh, it’s more than possible. Not knowing what’s being worked on in a team is, unfortunately, a problem more common than we’d like to believe.
In fact, when we asked 1,745 people across 702 companies through Know Your Team, “Are there things you don’t know about the company that you feel you should know? 55% of people said, “Yes, there are things I don’t know about the company that I feel like I should know.”
This is disconcerting for a reason. Good work doesn’t happen if folks don’t know what’s being worked on. While we intuitively seem to know this, it’s fascinating to see the data that’s been collected around this: A 2006 study conducted by Abhishek Srivastava, Kathryn M. Bartol and Edwin A. Locke revealed that knowledge sharing in teams has led to enhanced performance. And, in our own survey we ran this past fall specifically on sharing information with 355 people, 70% of managers and employees believe sharing information strongly affects team performance.
Additionally, a 2008 study run by Chuck Law and Eric Ngai demonstrated how, overall, “knowledge sharing practices contribute to cost reduction, responsiveness to customer needs, product and service offerings, business process improvements, and growth of market share.” And perhaps most stunningly, a 2015 Harvard Business Review article estimated that “companies in the Fortune 500 still lose a combined $31.5 billion per year from employees failing to share knowledge effectively.”
As a result, the admittance of “I had no idea we were working on that” is rather ominous. You want to make sure your team knows what everyone is working on. Right away.
Should you hold weekly staff meetings? Daily stand-up meetings? No meetings at all? Here’s what we found most leaders tend to do when sharing progress with their team …
In the survey we ran this past fall, we found that most teams seem to hold meetings as the primary way that they share progress (45%). However, other teams forgo a meeting altogether and just use a tool (29%), while others supplement the meeting with a tool or some sort of documentation, such as using an internal wiki or Google Docs (12%).
For the teams that do hold meetings to share progress, most do it in the form of a weekly staff meeting (65%). Some teams might even be holding these meetings once a day, as a daily stand-up meeting — but there caveats to consider.
Yes or no to daily stand-up meetings?
In our online community The Watercooler in Know Your Team with 1,000+ leaders, managers from all over the world heavily debated the pros and cons of daily stand-up meetings.
Here’s a summary of the different opinions exchanged, and what you should weigh if you’re thinking about holding daily stand-up meetings:
Daily stand-up meetings have the potential to break the workflow of employees. With the availability of tools, you often don’t need a meeting every single day that’s about sharing progress. If you are looking into holding daily stand-up meetings because your weekly staff meetings are taking too long, then perhaps that is symptomatic of a deeper issue: Your weekly staff meeting is too ambitious and has too many varied goals. Instead of resorting to daily stand-up meetings, potentially rethink the focus of your weekly staff meeting, and break out components into other meetings or other forms of communication.
What’s the “why”?
Meetings must have a purpose. Ask yourself (and your team!) honestly: “What’s the real need that this meeting is trying to meet?” Is it about making team members aware of what is going on? Is it about the team being confused about what’s happening in other areas of the team or the organization? Or is there a lack of understanding around the general team’s focus areas? The answers to these questions will help you determine what format is best to share progress, be it a daily-stand-up meeting, weekly staff meeting, software tool, or another mode of documentation.
Process or decision-making?
Consider that there are two types of meetings: “Process meetings”, which are meant to distribute information, and “decision-making meetings,” which are meant to solve problems and address specific situations. A stand-up meeting is a “process meeting” where each team member shares what they are working on and what blockers they might have. It shouldn’t take more than 10–15 minutes, even for larger groups. Any type of check-in — be it in-person or in-writing — should not be lengthy, and should be laser-focused on the intended and agreed purpose of the check-in.
If an in-person daily stand-up meeting proves to interrupt your flow of work, there are other alternatives. You can use Zoom or Slack to hold a daily stand-up meeting remotely. Or, for more asynchronous updates, you can use tools such as Basecamp, Asana, or Trello (or in Know Your Team, we, in fact, have a “Heartbeats” feature that’s very handy for this!).
After you’ve settled on the general format that you’d like to be sharing progress with your team, you’ll want to decide on exactly what content should be shared. From our 1,000+ Watercooler members, here are the most popular questions they pose to their team during weekly staff meetings and daily stand-up meetings:
- What is your number one focus this week?
- What did you accomplish today?
- What do you plan to accomplish tomorrow?
- Did you encounter any challenges that other team members may be able to provide input on?
- What are you most and least excited about working on this week?
- What was last week’s highlight for you? What are your plans for this week?
How can you improve your weekly staff meeting or daily stand-up meeting?
Even if you already have a set weekly staff meeting in place or daily stand-up meeting routine, you might still have some work to do: Ninety-one percent of employees who answered our survey said their manager could improve how they share information. Ouch!
In particular, our survey found that 42% of employees want information shared more regularly. After all, the fluency of information only happens with consistency. You’ll want to create a cadence with your updates — be it weekly meetings, daily updates, or quarterly round-ups. Decide what the right cadence is for your team, and stick with it regularly.
At the same time, in our survey, when we asked employees “Is there anything that you wished your manager shared less of?” we found that 20% of employees want their manager to share less about the progress being made in the company. You may be thinking, “Huh? I thought folks wanted information more regularly?” Yes, these employees’ responses seem conflicting. But what’s can be inferred here is something more nuanced that our survey didn’t outright capture: While the content of information and the regularity of information is desired by employees, the amount of time and effort it takes to relay this information can be highly improved.
Consider: How long are your weekly staff meetings taking? How arduous is it for your team to share out what they’re working on during a daily-stand-up meeting? Is there a way you can simplify or shorten those processes? And perhaps most importantly, are you making it clear why it’s important to share what’s being worked on?
Your team will be more willing to share what they’re working if they understand why spending the time to share is worth it in the first place is important.
That’s the point, in the end. You want your team saying “I had no idea we were working on that” a whole lot less — if not at all. Starting with these best practices here can help.
💡 Ready to streamline how you share progress in a team? Use our Heartbeat Check-in in Know Your Team. Everyone can share what they’re working on via Slack or email — and it’s shared with everyone in the team. That’s it. Dead simple. And, it saves you dozens of hours by not having daily stand-up meetings or weekly status meetings. See for yourself: Give the Heartbeat Check-in in Know Your Team a try today.