Though it is common to lament staff meetings, to take jabs at their usefulness, and to breathe a sigh of relief when they are canceled, the reality is that staff meetings are essential. Teams must communicate. Without effective staff meetings, over time, people and teams will move in a plethora of directions.
I have been leading staff meetings for almost twenty years and have led my fair share of less-than-stellar meetings. Some have been too long. Some strategy sessions have degenerated into the weeds of cumbersome details. Some incredible brainstorming sessions have ended without any clear execution steps. But along the way, I have gotten better at using staff meetings to bring clarity, focus the team, and ensure people are communicating. Here are seven basics for better staff meetings.
1. Know the primary purpose of the meeting.
There is a big difference between a meeting designed for learning, a meeting designed to discuss implementation and execution, and a meeting designed to formulate strategy. It is helpful to define if the meeting, or section of the meeting, is for learning, strategy discussion, or conversations about execution. If you define a meeting’s purpose, you can keep strategy meetings from degenerating into tactical discussions and keep execution meetings from becoming brainstorming sessions without execution.
2. Provide an agenda before the meeting.
An agenda before the meeting allows team members to be prepared for conversations around specific agenda items. While some on the team prefer spur-of-the-moment conversations, others contribute their best when they have had time to process beforehand.
3. Keep the pace moving.
An agenda also keeps the meeting moving and helps ensure that important items are discussed.
4. Assign others to lead sections of the meeting.
If the leader is the only one that is talking, the staff meeting becomes a monologue instead of a group conversation with people discussing and learning together. Others leading sections of the meeting, particularly in their area of expertise, helps distribute the leadership load to the entire team.
5. Ensure next steps are clear.
Often teams will make decisions without taking the time to clarify next steps. Without clear action steps, much of the discussion becomes wasted time; therefore, the last 10% of a discussion is the most important. Without clear action steps, great conversations are lost.
6. Assign actions items to point people.
Action items must have a clear point person. If it is everyone’s responsibility, it is often no one’s responsibility.
7. Document the action items.
Documenting the action items allows people to refer back to the decision when clarity is needed around ownership or timelines.
Staff meetings can be effective tools to learn, to strategize, or to ensure execution is occurring. But they must be viewed as tools that serve those purposes.