Jonathan McRoy, M.S., CM, CLC
Information-sharing meetings, also known as staff meetings, are one of the most common meetings held by organizations, and for good reason; communication is the lifeblood of any organization. When everyone within an organization knows the same key information, then there will be alignment and synchronization between different members of the organization (Davis 2001). Meetings can be a tool used to codify strategic objectives, posturing teams for organizational effectiveness. Meetings are held by managers at various levels of an organization to disseminate pertinent information to subordinates or lower-level managers. Staff meetings are a great venue for discussing organizational changes, collecting updates on complex projects and communicating organizational expectations with employees.
In many cases, new managers are unaware of when meetings are appropriate. Some never hold meetings and just communicate electronically, whereas others hold multiple meetings per day or per week. Holding ineffective meetings cultivates a disdain for meetings and stagnates productivity. Ineffective meetings can cripple operations and organizational effectiveness, leading to potential profit losses, eclipses in project timelines and poor organizational morale. Below are keys managers can utilize to drive staff-meeting success.
Key #1 – Know if a meeting is required
If you get a reputation for conducting useless meetings, the busiest and best people won’t show up (Booher, 2012). Managers should establish open-door policies and promote an environment where communication is free and unhindered. Managers shouldn’t use meetings as the only source of communication with team members. A manager who holds meetings to communicate information that’s not applicable to the team displays a lack of concern for others’ time, creating a negative perception of meetings. This eventually leads to lack of participation, absenteeism or subordinates wanting to provide written inputs to the meeting instead of attending. Hold a meeting when collective feedback is warranted.
Key #2 – Create an agenda
Organization is the cornerstone of meetings. Agendas are a key ingredient to the recipe of successful meetings. There may be criticism that an agenda will make the meeting too formal and that participants may not have the opportunity to freely express their thoughts but that’s not true if the meeting is facilitated effectively. An agenda is an outline that helps the facilitator to keep the meeting focused and on target. When a meeting is focused and targeted, it facilitates problem solving and information dissemination. Always make a list of agenda items according to their importance (Parker 2006). Listing items according to their importance helps the facilitator ensure there is sufficient time to discuss the most important items. It is highly inefficient for subordinates to leave their desk and convene around a table to discuss items of low importance that could have been discussed via electronic correspondence. The agenda should be sent out as far in advance as practical so participants can contribute appropriately.
Key #3 – Ensure that participants know their roles
Often times multiple representatives from a department will attend a meeting and it’s not clear who is speaking on that department’s behalf. This can degrade the quality of the meeting experience as the ambiguity of who officially represents a department can distract from the main points and throw participants off track. There should be a person identified to record outcomes and solutions as meetings are often used to assign tasks and distribute information. The minutes are a solid method of identifying who is accountable for the outcomes and suggestions made during the meeting.
Key #4 – Select an Appropriate Venue
The venue of the meeting is imperative to its efficacy. When a meeting location is conveniently located and properly prepared, it’s easy to overlook the logistical planning and effort applied to it. Ineffective meetings are partly the result of poorly planned logistics, location and preparation. Handling logistics is like a backdrop to a play; few notice unless something goes wrong (Davis 2001). The chair of the meeting should select a place that’s centrally located to all participants and annotate it on the agenda. The room should be equipped with all the appropriate equipment and media i.e. climate-controlled room, projectors adequate lighting, meeting table and comfortable seats. A proper venue postures all involved for success.
Key #5 – Get everyone genuinely involved
Most meetings are considered boring which drives low participation and effectiveness. To make meetings productive, the participants should be engaged and the team leader or facilitator should bring everyone into the discussion. The facilitator can accomplish this by empowering members of the team and earnestly soliciting their inputs. Develop a thought of the day to open the meeting and rotate that responsibility among team members. This increases engagement, provides members with a stake in the meeting and makes the meeting fun.
Key #6 – Chair with balance
An effective chair will demonstrate the ability to articulate the principles of fairness, equality and common sense in a clear and compelling manner (Mina 2000). Set clear ground rules for participation at the inception. Meetings can be derailed when participants talk out of turn and endlessly debate.
In today’s fast paced business world, it’s become increasingly challenging to work and communicate across organizational structures and operational demands. Managers must be highly skilled practitioners of time management, by ensuring they facilitate meetings that are highly productive and not detested by team members. These six steps can help managers ensure that the team gets the most out of staff meetings.
Booher, D., & Booher, D. (2012). Tip 1. In Leading effective meetings 72 tips to save time, improve teamwork, and make better decisions.
Davis, J. H. (2001). Planning and leading productive meetings.
Mina, E. (2000). The complete handbook of business meetings.