Like death and taxes, staff meetings seem unavoidable. With the best of intentions, a leader calls people together with the intention that they be informed, share important information with one another, and leave better equipped to do their jobs. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not.
Here are some guidelines about effective staff meetings (or meetings of any kind for that matter) that might be helpful.
First, is this meeting really necessary? Does it require the presence of this specific group of people for a designated period of time? If the answer is “No,” don’t bother to meet. If “Yes," then proceed to the next questions.
Second, what is the meeting’s purpose? The best way to define this is to create in advance a written agenda for those who will be expected to attend. Provide them with the opportunity to adjust the agenda either prior to the meeting or at the beginning of the session. This encourages ownership by participants.
Third, how does this meeting fit into previous meetings or meetings that will be planned subsequently? Most meetings are not stand-alone events. Most meetings are part of a continuum. The best way to keep up with the flow it to make sure someone takes notes of what transpires in each meeting and circulates them afterward. This is especially helpful for those who have to miss.
Fourth, will decisions be made and how will this be done? In one meeting I attended, after a discussion on a topic, a participant asked a question. The reply was, “This is already decided. We are not looking for your questions or opinions.” It would have been nice to communicate that ahead of time. Is the meeting convener seeking to simply provide information, involve participants in making a decision, make assignments for future work, or some combination of these actions?
Fifth, who will do what as a result of this meeting? If assignments have been made, are they both clear and recorded? What is the time frame for action? Will it be necessary to meet again? When will that be?
Sixth, what did we accomplish in today’s meeting and how could we have worked more effectively? It is often hard to get honest response on these questions, but a brief after-meeting survey online might allow the convener to learn how this group functions best.
If we are going to meet, let’s make it worth everyone’s time.