December 18, 2018

Staff Meetings For Effective Leaders: Make More Progress and Waste Less Time

Meetings don’t have to be a pain.

Dear staff meetings: Sometimes you’re great, you really are. But other times…

Staff meetings are a part of life. They serve an important purpose — you have to communicate with your peers and get updates on goals, progress, and more in order to be effective at your work and succeed as a team.

But consistently having great staff meetings is challenging. There are so many ways that they go bad. Want them to go right more often? Let us lead the way.

Leading great staff meetings – a recipe for success

Nothing is worse than starting a staff meeting knowing it’s going to go too long, and then leaving the meeting feeling that it was unproductive and a waste of time for some or all in attendance.

The recurring nature of staff meetings, whether quarterly, monthly, or weekly, is both their strength and weakness. On the one hand, it’s good to get a regular meeting on everyone’s calendar so that teams can coordinate their work and leaders can set direction.

But when you know you have to lead or attend a staff meeting every month, especially one without a clear agenda or topic, it’s easy to get lazy and challenging to keep it fresh and relevant, resulting in:

  • Apathy, avoidance, inattention, etc.
  • Reliance on others
  • Procrastination or a reliance on past topics, agendas, questions, etc.
  • Imbalance between those who are vocal and those who are not

As a leader, try the following tips to ensure your future staff meetings achieve the results you want.

Set an agenda and send it out

Not only will an agenda help you get organized before the meeting, it will also help you stay on topic during the meeting. Plus, knowing what you’re going to cover gives you a chance to sufficiently prepare what to say and review issues or topics that carry over from previous meetings.

Keep the meeting and agenda focused on one or two main objectives

Don’t get carried away and overburden the meeting! Try to streamline as much as possible. For every item you think of adding to the agenda, ask yourself if there is a real need for this to be discussed in person with everyone. Could it be handled over email or by sharing a document between teams?

If you can, get input from others on topics they think are important and narrow it down from there.

You’ll do yourself and your staff a huge favor by sending the agenda and objectives out to all attendees once you’ve got it finalized. Don’t send too many details, but rather prepare and send a high level outline with the main points. Include questions for specific staff members, main topics, issues, or updates. Aim to do this 2-3 business days in advance. You may have last minute items you want to add, but try not to add too many, so that people can be prepared.

Encourage a wide range of voices while still being productive

There are always a few individuals who are the most outspoken and those that are more reserved. As a leader, you have the ability to encourage both by thanking the more vocal bunch, but noting that you want to hear from others who have not yet spoken.

If there is a debate or a discussion, try a strategy that gets everyone involved. For example, you can have people vote on a wide range of ideas by writing their choice on a post-it note, and sticking them all to a whiteboard. Then narrow it down to a couple of options based on which ones get the most votes and having a more focused discussion. This keeps the process from being overwhelmed by the loudest participants.

You can also ask certain people to present on a topic from time to time — aiming to invite people who talk less frequently to take a more active role. More on that one below…

Ask for specific updates or presentations

Another great idea to get different people talking is to have staff present and share recent developments, project progress, or resolutions to problems. For example, one or two people who are working on an exciting project could have 5-10 minutes of the staff meeting to present what they’re doing, why it’s important, and what they’ve learned. Visual aids could be at the discretion of the presenter.

Throughout the year, aim to involve every staff member by either identifying a topic you want them to present on or asking them to select something they think would be appropriate (like a TED talk that inspired them or a conference they went to). This encourages participation and an opportunity for staff to learn and better understand what other staff do.

Allow time to reflect

Just like the reflection section of the Ink+Volt Planner, staff meetings are an awesome time to reflect on your unit or department. Consider reflecting on individuals and the group as a whole:

  • Progress
  • Goals
  • Achievements
  • Lessons learned
  • Reminders and opportunities to refocus on the bigger picture

What better way to track progress and gently remind everyone (even the grumpies) why they are there and how their role within the organization as a whole is impactful!

Maintain defined limits

Keep the list of staff required to attend as small as possible to avoid wasting people’s previous time and stick to the time allotted. If you’ve blocked the staff meeting for 30 minutes, don’t go a minute over! If you need more time, schedule another meeting and invite only the necessary people.

And if there are certain people who don’t need to be involved in every single staff meeting, let them know in advance that they don’t need to attend and send them the meeting notes after so they can still be in the loop.

Making staff meetings great when you’re not in the driver’s seat

As someone attending a staff meeting, you have the opportunity (and may we be so bold as to say obligation?!) to make it great! Don’t rely solely on the person leading it, blaming them for how boring, unproductive, or confusing it is. Instead, here’s how you can do your part:

Participate and add your thoughts, ideas, and questions without monopolizing air time of course. If the staff meeting leader shares the agenda in advance, prepare your ideas and answers to questions before the meeting, ready to discuss and get the ball rolling. Not only will this be appreciated by the leader, but it shows you’re taking initiative and providing value.

Volunteer to contribute to the staff meeting by asking the staff meeting leader whether you could share during the meeting. For example, you could share a project you’ve spearheaded, an issue or problem you’ve solved, or provide a recent company-wide update. It should be relevant to all the staff at the staff meeting and it’s important to ensure the leader of the staff meeting agrees/approves in advance.

This is an especially useful tactic if you’re more reserved in staff meetings; by having a set time to talk, you can prepare and know you’ll have a chance for your voice to be heard.

Avoid distractions by leaving electronic devices at your desk. That’s right, don’t bring your phone, tablet or laptop. Instead, take notes by hand (hello meeting notepad!). This not only helps your memory, but it helps you focus on the meeting agenda and what’s being discussed, being respectful of those who are speaking.

With these tips you can use for your future staff meetings…

…you’re so much better prepared for success, whether or not you’re the person leading it!

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