By Shweta Jhajharia, founder of The London Coaching Group,

“I wish I could grow my business without ever hiring anyone.”

Does that sound familiar?

If you don’t want to be firefighting anymore, want to improve the communication in your company, or if you need your team members just to do what you ask them to do, then it's time to consider improving how you're conducting your team meetings.

Team meetings, although they can sound like a waste of time, are essential for small businesses in order for them to reach their potential.

To access that potential, you need to leverage the collective intelligence that you have in your business, and move the whole team forward in a cohesive manner. This actually means more team meetings, not fewer.

This is because effective meetings mean:
• Broader buy in and consensus
• Better understanding of complex problems and issues
• Better understanding of individual contributions
• Greater positive social obligation

So what makes a good team meeting?

There are two main reasons for a meeting being ineffective:
1) Lack of drama (conflict). Heated arguments and demonstrations of passion, as long as they remain constructive, can generate a deeper and broader understanding of the topic.
2) Lack of context. The type of meeting and the organisation of the meeting needs to be tailored to the issues being addressed.

So to ensure your meetings are effective there are four important elements to implement:

1. Define the purpose.

You need to have it really clear in your head what the purpose of that meeting is. Are you strategizing or discussing operations? What do you want to get out of this meeting?

Everything stems from the purpose. If you don't know what the end goal is, then your meeting will inevitably lose its shape and clarity.

2. Create an agenda.

Once you know the purpose of your meeting, you can shape your agenda. As the leader of the meeting, you should make your agenda sharp — and make sure you stick to it.

3. Set a time limit.

Make sure that your meeting doesn't digress too far from the intended purpose and agenda - otherwise you could spend half your day in team meetings without actually getting anything productive done.

4. Limit the number of attendees.

It's tempting to have a meeting with the whole company to get that sense of 'togetherness'. Unfortunately, that's not the best thing for your company. If you want meetings that are going to move your company forward then the right people need to be sitting in that room.

This will come naturally if you move through the previous steps. Once you know the purpose and agenda for your meeting, it becomes pretty clear who needs to be there — and who is only going to be wasting time if they're there.

Every meeting is different and will have unique requirements, so you do need to be flexible with your structure. However, if you follow through these elements, you will quickly come to very specific needs for your specific meeting, which will make it a much more productive use of your time.

At the very least, before every team meeting, ask yourself one simple question before you hold a meeting: "What do I want my team members to achieve after this meeting?"

You will be amazed at the clarity that answering that one question will bring — and what a difference that will make to the meeting and its effectiveness.