We don’t often think about staff meetings as a training ground, but they are. Granted, they exist at a very basic level (only lower level would be OJT, or on-the-job training, considered one of the best training environments), but few situations allow you to have so many company subject matter experts and leaders in the same location at the same time. But the problem isn’t whether you agree with my training definition; it’s about maximizing the use of this management “training” tool.
“Management requires us to attend regular staff meetings on weekly basis with an objective to discuss the routine matters of the office. These meetings apparently turn out to be boring and fruitless.”
The comment above sounds a little like, “War! What is it good for?” Unfortunately staff meetings are necessary, just not life threatening, unless you die from boredom. Of course, ensuring “what’s in it for me” will help, but you need to make it more reciprocal and establish an “all for one and one for all” meeting format.
Staff meetings can serve a very useful multipurpose existence. To make them work the way you want them to, you may just have to train staff in meeting design and handling of subordinate staff in a corporate setting.
I know it sounds boring put that way, but doesn’t have to be. A staff meeting can have order, provide vital and useful information, and be interesting and interactive.
Staff meetings still may take up some of your valuable time, but they can be transformed, with a little planning, into meetings that give back, that pack information you need from the rest of the staff to know, identify training needs or inform others of training that is being offered in the organization elsewhere, provide collaborative opportunities, and ways to focus your efforts so you may best be rewarded for them. Need a list of what effective staff meetings can accomplish? Just to show I don’t have the lock on ideas, here’s a list from the Career Post Team on the Virgin Islands:
“Improving collective performance, encouraging greater productivity and boosting profits
• Strengthening a sense of togetherness, brand-awareness and corporate identity
• Developing good communication skills within internal teams – a valuable skill which will be translated into customer or client interaction
• Motivating staff to help each other succeed, reinforcing their commitment to working towards a common goal
• Teaching managers and senior staff the crucial arts of communication, delegation and leadership
• Discussing matters concerning changes in office routine, such as: change in lunch periods, hours, vacation time, etc.
• Announcing weekly office statistics
• Open discussion on ideas for generating referrals
• Contributing to a sense of oneness among co-workers
• Discouraging feelings of isolation that can develop when staff members are given routine work assignments that allow only minimal interpersonal communication during the day
• Stimulating useful ideas about how to deal with problems and how to improve the handling of routine situations
• Reducing friction by giving staff members an appropriate forum to air their differences and seek resolution
• Ensuring regular and effective communication”
Now, the trick is making the staff meeting work for you as the manager, supervisor or staff member. First, focus on one or two items of particular importance. Don’t try to combine too many items–especially combining the important and not-so-important administrivia (sorry administrators). The key is to keep the meeting short and relevant. The longer the meeting, the less will be remembered, and it will be the least motivating. People are truly motivated over one or two important items at time. Any more will overwhelm.
We don’t have regular staff meetings in my office; instead we have individual management meetings–a one-on-one with the supervisor. We are all mid-level management ourselves, but I still feel regular staff meetings are important. The best staff meetings I remember having were during my time in the military. All the players knew their parts well and the result was a meeting no longer than it needed to be, everyone was heard, and any additional information that was required could be run down after the meeting.
A staff meeting, or any meeting for that matter, should be a precise communication of what is intended. “There he goes again–the communicator.” Actually, this time I’m talking more about organization and planning, but focused as you would in creating a single-minded event–with multiple disciplines involved.
The purpose of the meeting is really about bringing people to together for a single purpose–the company’s purpose. So, a staff meeting is a way to bring “all for one, and one for all” like the The Three (or four) Musketeers. Too bad we feel we just got stuck.
How can you avoid being “stuck?” You can’t unless you’re the boss, but there’s help for him, too.
Approach the meeting as you would a production. You can’t have wildly differing elements or the meeting loses the cohesiveness of meeting tied together topically. Chaos will ensue, people stop paying attention. You know this happens on conference calls because those on the other end can mute their end and you’ll never know unless you ask a question. In a meeting, everyone can just stay mute and the meeting will end after your lecture. Not very productive.
You should do the following every time you have a meeting, but you would be surprised who doesn’t. Plan it like an event you want people to want to attend.
This is how it usually happens: you are so busy that you jot down a few things you want to talk about and call everyone together or schedule a meeting, but often you only say a few words about what it is going to be about. While you’re just saying a few words, how about adding an acknowledgment of how busy everyone is and a short sentence that you expect or hope attendees might get out of the meeting?
In larger organizations where you would have section heads, vice presidents, sitting around a table–each is immersed in a world of work totally different from one another, but I will assume each is equally important to the company (or at least he or she thinks that is the case). The president, CEO, boss-whoever is sitting at the head of the table, wants to see how all your efforts come together. Purpose of the meeting: an update from each of the attendees. Basically, a show-and-tell of the work going on right now. Or, a focused piece on one aspect, one strategic component everyone is doing their part. This meeting is important for everyone to know what the others are doing; it might spur ideas, questions and concerns. Now’s the time to address them.
How do you get everyone on the same clock? Giving them time to work with is too fluid. People rarely stay on time. Either they break off early because they don’t have time to cover everything-so why bother (not good for morale either); or they go over–sometimes long enough to be stopped by the boss. Also, not a morale booster.
Instead, create one standardized presentation and give responsibility to each participant to do two or three (make it the same for all) slides. On each slide they “own” they can use bullets (done the same way), charts or examples. One good reason for standardizing the presentation is that it puts everyone on the same page and using the same rules. No PowerPoint or similar type of presentation? Use one or two flip charts, or limit the number of points to discuss on the white board. If you have an executive officer or special projects officer, he or she can put it all together and “manage” the terms under which each member participates in the meeting.
In the end, participants will have equal amounts of information and be able to focus on the information they need, know where to get additional information, and participate equally in the discussion or Q and As. You will have a presentation or handout to take back to your office. What could be more fair than “one for all and all for one?” And, you’ll have a model staff meeting format to take back to your office and your staff.
For more resources about training, see the Training library.
These are my words and opinions. Please feel free to disagree and comment, or contact me. If you’re interested in more of my points of view–my Cave Man way of looking at things, I have a website where you can find other items I have written. For more information on my peculiar take on training, check out my best selling The Cave Man Guide To Training and Development, and for a look at a world that truly needs a reality check, see my novel about the near future, Harry’s Reality! Meanwhile, Happy Training.