“I love to be micromanaged!” said no one ever.

In today’s ever-changing world, it’s important to keep businesses running. We still need to set deadlines and meet milestones need, and employees need to be engaged and produce quality work. Executive leaders, now more than ever, want to be apprised on what’s going on in their organizations.

One way to make sure everyone is informed of what’s going on is a project status meeting. Project status meetings must occur at a regular cadence to ensure that employees are producing deliverables and the team’s performance is meeting or exceeding stakeholders’ expectations. However, there is a fine line between a well-run project status meeting and one with eyerolls and audible groans.

Project status meetings are designed to hold teams accountable and on track. In a Project Management Institute conference paper titled, “The secrets to running project status meeting that work!”, Dana Brownlee (2008) writes, “Effective status meetings not only benefit the project manager, by providing timely task updates, but also benefit the entire team, by providing a venue for recognizing milestone achievements, sharing information, and bringing problems/issues to the team.”

So, how can you turn project status meetings from cringeworthy micromanagement interrogations into collaborative, trusting strategy check-ins? There are three areas to focus on, particularly when these meetings are virtual: tone, engagement and interaction.

1. Tone

The adage “it’s not what you say but how you say it” holds true during project status meetings. Is the tone of the meeting inviting or accusatory? For example, which of the statements would garner more solicitation from the team: “Jen, what’s the status of your projects? Are you behind?” or, “Jen, what success have you had since we last met? What areas can the team assist you with?” The latter is more positive and offers help or assistance even before the employee asks for it.

2. Engagement

Status meetings can be tedious, monotonous and unproductive — but they don’t have to be. Ask questions (more importantly, ask open-ended questions), and solicit feedback from specific members of the team.

It’s difficult to tell who’s listening and paying attention during the meeting, especially if it’s conducted on the phone. Call on team members who just finished a project to share their take on lessons learned and how they could assist colleagues on a similar project. Were new resources discovered? Was there an outstanding subject matter expert (SME) who went above and beyond? Asking questions, listening and sharing project wins are engaging ways to keep the project status meeting from becoming lackluster.

Another way to keep people engaged is to rotate the leader of the meeting. The leader is responsible for preparing the agenda ahead of the call and sending it to the appropriate parties, as well as asking for input and status updates from the group.

3. Videos

Most people don’t like to hear their own voice, let alone see their face on a monitor. But when you can’t meet in person, video is the next best thing. You and your colleagues can more clearly deliver and receive messages when you can see each other’s facial expressions and gestures.

Engagement is also heightened when you use videos to help prepare the team prior to a meeting. For example, you can use video “homework” to introduce a new topic or process. If you have a screen-capturing application, someone could talk through or highlight a point on the agenda prior to the meeting. (Don’t forget to share your screen so that the audience can see what you are talking about!)

Keep in mind that there’s no one foolproof plan in running an engaging, productive project status meeting. However, being conscious of the details and delivery of the meeting can help foster a successful meeting. For additional help, check out Elise Keith’s project status meeting agenda template.

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