5 Questions to ask, when leading your first team meeting of the year

In the next few weeks, most of us will hold our first team meeting of 2022. For many leaders, this might still be online. Given the year that’s just been, this first meeting can be an important tone-setter to ensure your team is in the right mindset to conquer 2022. Before you get into business as usual, here are 5 questions to consider when leading your first team meeting of 2022.

1.   ” If you could caption 2021 in 6 words or less, what would it be? “

Don’t open the meeting with the old generic “so, how was everyone’s break?” or “what did everyone get up to?” or a version of it. It’s a question best saved for individual chats or coffee room conversations, where you can actually give people the time and attention to listen to them. Instead, open the meeting with this ice breaker question. You could turn it into a caption or meme competition if you set agendas in advance. If you have a diverse multicultural team, you could even replace this with “What emoji would you use to describe 2021?”. Remember to keep it light and use humour. In hindsight, and with the benefit of perspective, most difficult situations can be seen in a different light, that help us learn, grow and move forward. Mentally, this can help create the emotional distance between the year that’s been and the year to come.

2. ” What are 3 things we did as a team in 2021 that worked for us and we want to keep doing in 2022? “

This might seem counterintuitive, especially if you are wanting to set the tone of the new year being a ‘fresh start’.  But actually, 2021 (similar to 2020) was a challenging year for most leaders and individuals, and we have all personally grown wiser from this experience. Similar to leaders and individuals, teams have also developed and found new social and team norms that worked well in 2021, and you want to keep doing them in 2022. Understanding what you want to keep doing as a team will help you leverage the lessons learned from the challenges of last year. Remember, this is about future focus, and not meant as a whinge session. So keep the conversation focused on what worked, rather than what didn’t work in 2021.  

3.   ” What might we be holding onto from 2021 that we need to let go of? “

The mind holds on to emotional experiences, and most likely we all had a few of those over the last year. These experiences often manifest as biases, assumptions or limiting beliefs that significantly impact the mindset that we take into 2022, both consciously and subconsciously. This will taint the way we see both threats and opportunities that the new year will bring us. It can take a reasonable process of reflection, introspection and self-awareness to know what these biases, assumptions or beliefs are and how they are impacting individuals and teams, and this question can be a good starting point towards this process. A useful tip – as a leader it might be worth sharing an example of what biases, assumptions or beliefs you have challenged, reflected upon and are now more self-aware of yourself.

4. ” What will success look like for us as a team in 2022? “

We operate at pretty busy tempos in today’s environment. So most people will tend to slow down over the holiday period, take stock and reflect on their lives, careers and personal goals. Chances are, most of your team have done the same (this can actually be a great conversation for your first one-on-one catch up of the year). For your first team meeting, however, you want to bring everyone back on the same page and shift people from the individual mindset towards a team mindset, and create a conscious link between personal goals and team goals. You can focus this question on business/work success as a team, or else focus on team relationships and how you work together. Do what works for you and your team. The aim is to transition from an individual mindset to a collective team mindset.

5. ” Have a think about our next team off-site, and let me know if you have any suggestions? “

A particularly useful question if you are still operating remotely, as it gives teams something to look forward to, both from a work and social perspective. Not everyone will be 100% enthused about returning to work, and there may be a bit of ‘post-holiday blues’ within the team. This will give people something fun to look forward to that’s not a work or business deadline. Be considerate of people who may be more introverted than others, and may find social activities more energy-draining than others. Most teams tend to schedule a team development workshop, off-site day or strategy day in the early part of the year. Generally, somewhere between the start of the calendar year and end of the financial year. If you haven’t already planned this, then you could instead ask a more open question like “What shall we do for our first off-site or in-person team meeting of 2022?”.

There are going to be things in 2022 that we cannot control or influence. But we can definitely control our own mindset, and help influence the mindset of our teams. I hope these questions help shape your thinking as a leader, and your approach for your first team meeting, so you can set the tone for 2022.