Gathering your staff in one place for a focused discussion is one of the most effective ways to keep the team motivated and working toward a common goal. But many managers allow their meetings to become mere formalities, wastes of time, or even turf wars among staff members. A poorly planned, poorly run meeting squanders a terrific opportunity to foster teamwork and enhance a staff’s success.
Here are some tips to help you make your staff meetings the focused, productive and motivational events they should be.
Managers often schedule regular staff meetings to "keep everyone up-to-date" or with some similarly vague goal. But without a clear agenda, your staff cannot prepare and will not be able to make the focused, thought-out contributions that will make your meeting successful.
Before each meeting, write out a detailed agenda and send it to all attendees—with topics, goals, requests for ideas, and the questions you’ll raise during the meeting. This gives your staff time to prepare their contributions—many will even rehearse their ideas or questions privately—which will make for a much more focused, productive meeting.
If you think writing an agenda for each meeting isn’t worth your time, consider that if you pull your staff of 15 people together for an hour every week, you’re sending a message that each meeting is worth 15 hours of your team’s time—plus an hour of yours. If your meeting is this important, isn’t it also worth spending a half-hour to craft an agenda that keeps it on track?
If you can’t think of any agenda items, maybe you don’t need a meeting at all. Not having a meeting is far better than having an unnecessary one.
Bestselling author Seth Godin tells the story of his friend placing a job ad. When she received a promising resume, Godin’s friend googled the candidate. The first search result: a MySpace page with a photo of the person drinking beer, and a list of hobbies that started with "Binge drinking."
We are much more likely to learn and remember a key insight or piece of wisdom if it’s wrapped in a compelling story. Godin used the story above to illustrate how important it is in the digital age to think before we publish anything, anywhere. This lesson in story form is far more vivid and powerful than if Godin simply said, "In the age of Google, be careful what you write."
Your staff meetings represent your opportunities to speak to your team and reinforce the goals and milestones you want them working toward. What stories can you tell that will resonate with them and keep them motivated?
A meeting will be truly successful only if the attendees take the actions agreed to during the meeting. So after each meeting, send a brief, informal email to all attendees that states, in bullet-point form, what actions came out of the meeting, which attendee is responsible for them, and when those tasks are to be completed.
One way to make these emails even more effective is to bold the names of each attendee who has responsibility for an action item. This way, recipients can quickly scan the email for their own tasks and will immediately see their names in bold.
Have you ever been in a debate and come up with a brilliant line… the next day? The same can happen with employees in your meetings.
Create a meeting culture that encourages attendees to continue thinking about the meeting’s key points after it’s over. Tell attendees that if insights or ideas related to the meeting’s topics occur to them afterward, you’d like them to share them with you and other attendees who might benefit from hearing them.
When they’ve had some time away from the meeting to process what they heard, some of your staff will have terrific contributions to make. By encouraging this ongoing thought, you’ll help ensure that your attendees’ creativity and focus aren’t stifled the moment the meeting ends.