Thursday, November 17th, 2016
While many leaders see staff meetings as vital to the success of their organization, most employees see them as a painful waste of time. With other types of meetings, leaders can mitigate this effect by keeping the attendee list as narrow as possible, and only calling a meeting when there’s something to discuss. But a staff meeting is a different beast altogether: by definition, it includes the entire team/department. And it’s usually a monthly or weekly recurring meeting.
Each staff meeting should have a clear purpose: discuss a strategic issue, share information on business development activities, brainstorm on how to seize an opportunity or address a challenge, or to discuss options and make a decision. Participants then know what to expect and how to prepare. If the meeting has no objective – or the only objective is that the leader hasn’t seen his team in a while – cancel it.
Preparing for such a large meeting requires some forethought and serious planning. Force yourself to limit the agenda to the items that are most crucial by having some informal discussions beforehand with relevant colleagues to identify what is important to them. Then email the agenda to people well in advance, so that they come prepared.
Give the podium to different participants. Ask direct questions and get opinions from different participants as you go. Are we missing something? Have we thought this through from all possible angles? Cold call people who don’t speak up.
Encourage attendees to come prepared and present their arguments backed up by numbers and facts. For instance, you’ll get more and better ideas out of participants if you send around a memo ahead of time, and tell them they’re expected to read it, than if you make them sit through a PowerPoint and then tell them to brainstorm.
After all that talking, it’s important that people know what to do next or they’ll feel like the meeting was a waste of time. Keep a record of the actions to be taken, who is responsible for them, and what the deadlines will be. If the meeting identified any new issues to be further explored, schedule follow-up discussions as needed.
A staff meeting can be an opportunity to offer public praise, reiterate a corporate goal, inspire people, and remind them of your strategic vision. Once the agenda has been covered, or your prearranged time is up, and actions have been agreed, remind all attendees how their work (and the agreed-upon action items) contribute to each other’s success and how they link to the bigger picture.
Summing-up: Remember that staff meetings are extremely expensive when you account for everyone’s time. Treat them with the attention and care you would any major investment, and you’ll find that your team soon takes them more seriously.