It’s the most common of all meetings. 45% of meetings to be precise.
It happens at the same time every week.
It’s held in the same windowless conference room.
The agenda is the same. The people are the same. The results are the same.
Best case is that they think it’s fine. Worst case is that they think it’s a boring waste of time.
If you want to assume best case, then I say that fine isn’t good enough. You can do better, and I’m going to help you.
Better staff meetings are possible
It’s time for you to shake things up. Here are eight simple changes you can make to improve your staff meetings.
1. Go somewhere different
This one is unbelievably easy. Pick a different conference room. Go to the other end of the building or to another floor.
It’s spring. Consider that picnic table that doesn’t get used, or if your staff is small and it works with your agenda, try going for a walk outside.
You need to break the humdrum. A venue change can do that for you.
2. Change the length
If your staff meetings are too short to accomplish anything meaningful, double it. If they are too long and tend to drag out, cut the time in half. People tell me that Microsoft Outlook encourages them to schedule meetings that last an hour.
It’s time that you change your default meeting settings. You control the length, and your meeting rule should be, “Not a minute more than necessary.”
3. Ask someone else to lead it
Nothing ups someone’s level of engagement more than putting him or her in the leadership hot seat. Who says you need to lead it just because you’re the boss?
If you’re going this route, make sure your staff members have the resources they need to be successful meeting leaders. Provide them with some coaching, and encourage them to strive for productive and engaging. Better yet, buy them a copy of my book Meeting Hero. That ought to inspire them to achieve meeting greatness!
If a little competition inadvertently breaks out among your staff about who leads the best meeting, that’s all the better.
4. Cut the updates
You know that whole thing where you go around the room and everyone provides an update? I’ve heard from dozens of people that the only part of that process that interests them is when they are talking.
For simple updates, use some sort of online collaboration platform. If the conversation isn’t going to result in a decision that affects the way people act, it doesn’t belong in your meeting.
5. Replace the update with a spotlight
I know, you are worried that if you don’t do the updates you won’t have anything to talk about. Try this instead. Offer a 15-20 minute slot to one of your staff members who is struggling with a particularly vexing problem.
Give that person the time to do some problem-solving with his/her coworkers. You do this well, and team members will beg you to give them their turn in the spotlight.
Again, if you are turning over 20 minutes of the meeting, make sure that person comes prepared to make best use of that time.
6. Send out straight-forward updates in advance
There’s that other section in your staff meetings when you provide a series of updates. We’ll call it the FYI section.
That section need not take up expensive meeting time. When you send your agenda, add an item at the bottom for questions about the updates. Write out the updates and include them as an attachment.
When you get to that part of the agenda ask the group, “What questions do you have about the updates I provided with the agenda?” If they have some, answer them. If they don’t, move on.
7. If you’ve got nothing, cancel the meeting
Nothing screams BORING WASTE OF MY TIME more than you starting the meeting with, “Well, I really don’t have much this week, so this should go quick.” It’s especially bad when you somehow still manage to fill the time you scheduled for the meeting.
Hold the time slot open, but if three days out you don’t see a need for the meeting, that’s when you should cancel it. And by the way, if it’s a go, it’s time to send your team the meeting agenda so they can come prepared.
8. Set up a drama series
We watch TV dramas to see how the story will unfold and how the problems will be solved. Each week, the overarching story line for that season advances. You can do the same thing with your staff meetings.
Find an interesting problem to solve, one that’s important but not urgent. It should be a problem that would normally require several problem solving meetings or one long one to address. An example would be “How do we ensure our team stays on the cutting edge with our skills and tools?”
Plan the process you would use in a long meeting, and then chop it into small segments that can fit within a portion of your staff meeting. When the problem is solved, find a new problem to tackle.
Go to work
Staff meetings are the most common workplace meeting. You and your employees spend far too much time in them. They may as well be good. Because you’re calling them, it’s your job to make sure they are.