Staff Meetings: Tune-up to avoid Tune-out

by: Ian K. McEwen

Throughout our Management Consulting practice, we often counsel our clients on the need to continually engage their employees in effective strategy sessions. It is not good enough to just look at the bottom right section of the balance sheet at the end of every month. Every member of your management team has a responsibility to make his/her contribution to the bottom line. Conducting successful and consistent meetings with your staff, in a group setting as well as one-on-one, will reap both short-term and long-term benefits. Meetings for meetings sake can be the biggest waste of time, and if you are wasting people’s time, you are probably wasting money. Here are some key points to consider.

  • Invite the right attendees. Make sure you have the right people at your meeting. This is especially true when you require collaboration or need to build consensus on issues which affect the entire company. Each department manager brings a high level of expertise. They are proud of their work and like to talk about it. It is up to the meeting leader to integrate each department’s contribution to the success of the organization.
  • Have an agenda. Whether you are having a group meeting or one-on-one with a manager, make sure you have a concise agenda. You want to identify specific objectives or desired results so you can maintain interest, involvement, and avoid the side chatter. In a group performance meeting, explain what is right and what is working. Include topics with shared mutual interest – service quality, customer retention, profitability, new business development, and department sales objectives. Some group meetings can be held to a minimum. If you just want to share information, then use the intra-company email. Your one-on-one meetings with your department managers will deal with specific “things to do list” that can be reviewed succinctly on a weekly basis.
  • Come prepared. When all participants are actively involved, your meeting will be much more effective. The group becomes focused on the company goals and share is a sense of accomplishment toward those goals. Distribute the meeting agenda in advance so attendees will come with all the materials ready for the meeting so as to build trust with the other managers.
  • Stay on topic. Effective meetings are kept to within a reasonable timeframe. A meeting that is longer than necessary invites side-line discussions and frustration. Don’t allow unrelated questions to throw your agenda off track. Unrelated questions can be dealt with in your one-on-one department meetings. Make sure you get agreement on how to deal with a group issue. Avoid leaving a problem item unresolved.
  • Accurate information. Make sure you distribute information to your management that is accurate. Use only one set of notes to which everyone has access and in which all can contribute. Company or department business decisions made on erroneous information can have adverse, negative affects.
  • Follow-up. Make sure your staff doesn’t fall back into same-old, same-old habits. Distribute meeting results to your staff promptly after your meeting so everyone embraces the decisions made, the assignments and commitments made, and the timelines for completion. It is important to ask the group if the meeting results were accomplished, if the group is working well together. The reports are critical for your follow-up with individual department managers.

Keep your meetings moving and interact with everyone in the meeting. Try and include all in the discussion and the debate. Use direct eye contact to make your point. Use positive dialogue with a focus on ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ or ‘you’. Use positive body language to inspire and motivate your staff. Don’t centre-out individuals in a group meeting especially if you have a negative issue to discuss. Those items need to stay in your one-on-one manager sessions.

Take the time to follow these easy steps in holding successful meetings. Tune-up the planning and implementation process. You will experience stronger and more noticeable employee participation and commitment, and avoid tune-out!

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