Most of us view weekly staff meetings today with a degree of trepidation and frustration. Many have suggested that it is time re-engineer this process, or eliminate the meetings entirely.
In an old survey on staff meeting obstacles conducted by GroupSystems, I found the following not-so-surprising statistics for the average 50 minute staff meeting:
- Much time wasted on inefficient process – over 30% of the total time
- No meeting minutes or decisions recorded – 59% of the cases
- Nothing usable gained from meeting – 68% of respondents
These kind of statistics are often used to suggest that staff meetings be eliminated, but I don’t agree. I would assert that these meetings are necessary to run a company of any size, and are not a necessary evil. The alternative is chaos, or autocratic leadership.
The opposite of chaos is some type of democratic leadership, which requires regular meetings of all teams at every level, on a regular basis. In my experience, these can be very productive for all concerned. But the following basic principles are followed:
Communicate the time, purpose and process. Executive staff meeting. The CEO who sanctions the meeting must set expectations clearly. People need to know what they are expected of provide and communicate, what they will hear, and when to be there.
Schedule in advance, and stick to the schedule. Schedule meetings at least every other week throughout the calendar or business year. Start on time, even if everyone is not present. Demonstrate respect for the people who show up on time by beginning promptly. Individuals that come late can 'catch-up' later.
Don’t delegate and don’t derail your own meeting. Except in an emergency, you should show up on time, conduct your own meetings personally, or cancel the meeting. There is nothing so frustrating or ineffective as a meeting run by a surrogate, used for personal tirades, or dragged off track by a vocal member.
Everyone has a voice, with a moderator for action items. I recommend a fixed agenda segment where each attendee distributes and discusses a one page written report. The report is to follow a specific format including progress, problems, and plans. Each subsequent meeting picks up incomplete items. Action items are logged by the leader or scribe.
If decisions are required, close the loop on each one. A group decision does not require a total group consensus, but it does require a process that is agreed, understood, and followed by all. How many meetings have you left where no one knows what was decided, or worse yet, everyone has his own view of the outcome?
Moderate the discussion and the filter agenda items. Staff meetings are definitely not the place to discuss individual performance (handing out praise is fine), or spending time on specific projects that relate only to a few individuals. It is the place to communicate goals for the following period, and acknowledge accomplishments for the past period.
Hold them consistently across every division/functional department. The CEO should encourage each of his direct reports to conduct staff meetings in their own divisions or functional areas.
It may well take you several weeks to reinvent your staff meetings along the lines recommended above. However, you will quickly note that the team will cooperate more than before, and will more likely surface critical issues, determine alternatives, and avoid surprises.