How To Hold a Better Team Huddle

Published on March 22, 2019 by Forbes

By Alisa Beyer

If you are a business leader, chances are you’re familiar with the idea of a daily huddle — that morning meeting where you set the tone for the day’s work and get your team focused and driving towards results. For me, I become committed to idea of a team huddle many years ago after reading a quote by quarterback Philip Rivers about why he is so comfortable leading: “I’ve been calling plays in the huddle since I was seven,” he said.

In a quarterback’s case, a huddle is very specific; it’s not where he gets his team together to moon over next week’s game or where they’ll spend the off-season. No, during the huddle, the quarterback is 100% dialed into getting his team to focus on the next play and on moving the ball toward the end zone with the clear goal of getting that touchdown — and winning. This same focus and attention to specific, actionable details is also what’s needed to drive a good daily business huddle.

Like a football team has many priorities during a game, so too do new or growing businesses — they have to consider hiring the right team and establishing processes and procedures. And while these are all important priorities that must be given appropriate attention, they could all amount to nothing if one critical thing doesn’t shadow these tasks, and that’s distinguishing between what’s important and what isn’t. The best way to figure this out is often, you guessed it, in your daily huddle. Here, I’ve got five keys I use to create a productive and successful daily huddle.

  1. Leaders, step up. There’s an old saying in leadership that the fish stinks from the head. Or, in other words — the leader is the one who sets the tone, and the leader of your company, team or group should be the one leading your daily huddle. This critical meeting isn’t the time for colleagues or junior employees to jockey for attention or to prove their mettle. The daily huddle needs to be set and guided by she or he who sets the tone for everything else, and that means the boss.

  2. Get goal giddy. My favorite part of the daily huddle is sharing my goals with my team. I think about this information a great deal before the huddle and decide what I will and won’t share that day. That’s because, as I mentioned earlier, not every goal deserves attention during the huddle. In fact, the most successful huddles are those that focus on just those specific, actionable goals that are going to get your team over the scoring line and on the road to success with a specific project or deliverable.

  3. Use the right tools. As is the case in any situation where you have targeted information that needs to be shared strategically, one of the best ways to keep your team on track in a huddle is to use the right tools. In my case, that means the Daily Huddle Workplan (DHWP) — a Word document that clearly spells out must-dos and project statuses, who is responsible for tasks, due dates, and statuses at a glance. The DHWP contains only brief, hyper-focused, top-line information. You should share it in a way that instantly alerts team members to what’s happening with the company, which projects are critical, who owns certain deliverables, and what the expected completion dates are without wasting any time on extraneous or deeper details. And sure, those details are important … just not during the huddle. This brings me to number four.

  4. Keep it focused. Do you have more to say than what’s included on the work plan about a particular project, or do team members have questions and concerns that are secondary to top-line huddle information? Save it for a one-on-one meeting with your employee or manager. Remember, the huddle is strictly to keep the team focused on the most important tasks and priorities at hand for the day. If you stick to just the most critical pieces of information, employees will be able to pay attention more easily during huddles and avoid getting lost down the rabbit hole of information overload.

    “Can we put a pin in that?” As cliché as it is, this simple statement can put an end to derailment quickly and definitively. If it’s a topic that needs attention, stop the conversation and quickly schedule a time to discuss said issue, then pick up the huddle where you left off.

  5. Finally, put yourself on a timer. And don’t be afraid to cut yourself off. If your intention is to keep the huddle to 30 minutes, then be prepared to wrap up the meeting in 30 minutes — and don’t take much longer. Figuring out the optimal timing for your team’s daily huddle might entail a bit of compromise at the beginning, but once you’ve nailed down a time and pattern that works, strive to make that the standard and not the exception to the rule. By doing so, you encourage your team to show up to the huddle focused and ready to dial into the critical tasks at hand.

A team huddle can be a remarkable tool that helps build focus and keep teams aligned and moving in the same direction in business or on the football field. By following a few simple guidelines, you can start winning at work just like a quarterback does on the field. So what are you waiting for? Huddle up.