The staff meeting — or “stiff meeting” as it is sometimes known in many companies — can become a colossal waste of time. Many consider staff meetings a practical alternative to work; as a place to think about this weekend’s fishing trip or to refine their doodling skills. All because there is too little thought invested in the planning or the execution of the meeting.

Put some thought and planning into your staff meetings to fully engage your team and it can help you boost productivity, increase the effectiveness of decision-making, head off emergencies, reduce the number of problems that require your attention, make for happier staff and create a smoother running, more profitable operation. Done well 10 minutes of time spent in planning with your team (and associated trades) can prevent hours of wasted time in a project. Following are some ideas to breathe new life into your staff meeting:

  1. Link the agenda with your company goals. For instance, if one of the overarching goals is to decrease wasted time, then list “Project Flow” as an item on your agenda. Underneath that heading you can cover off one part of the materials ordering process and use the opportunity to hone people’s skills bit by bit. The same agenda could flow from week to week, but focus on a different part of the process to improve. You may need to include your suppliers and other trades in this discussion
  2. Purpose. Be very clear what the purpose of the meeting is and if it is just because we have to have a meeting each week to have a general catch up, then do you really need it? Meetings can have many purposes. Keep a meeting to one purpose only and invite those who only need to be there to add value to that purpose.
  3. Think outside the box. Another overlooked objective of effective staff meetings is training. Properly conducted staff meetings are a forum for continuous improvement. Maybe showing a video aimed at sparking new ideas or improving processes may be the appropriate thing to do once in a while. Variety helps to keep it fresh.
  4. Hold meetings regularly. The more frequently meetings are held, the better. In certain situations, daily meetings are appropriate. In others, weekly will do. Let too many days slip by and you risk sending the wrong message to your team. Make them short and have them often. Stand-up meetings at the whiteboard can be better than sit down ones at the lunch table. People who stand will be more focused in what they say and will want to get on with their jobs
  5. Get in and get out. Timeliness is critical to running an effective meeting. Start it on time and end when you say you will. Fine those people who are late, or give them clean-up duty for the rest of the week and see how people improve their time-keeping. That honors the schedules of other members of the team.
  6. Write up the minutes. The minutes provide the foundation for the next meeting’s agenda. At the beginning of the meeting, make sure someone is assigned to write up what happened and what you’re planning to make happen; in other words, who’s going to do what by when. Keep the minutes short and use bullet point lists often. Email them out if required.
  7. Rotate leadership. Just as the minute-taker’s function should rotate, so too should that of the leader. In fact, the person in charge of the minutes should be in charge of running the next meeting. That provides more accountability and a greater stake in getting the minutes written clearly, concisely and on time.
  8. Open the books. Always provide people a good fundamental understanding of where the business is going. Don’t just provide a cursory statement like, “Business is good” or “Profits are down.” Go into detail, at least setting out revenue and gross profit position. The better informed your staff, the better decisions they’ll make.

A bit of planning before meetings and focusing on keeping the meeting short, on topic and with clear, time-bound actions agreed at the end will result in more energized staff and better productivity. Try it and see.

Andy Burrows – The Trades Coach