Gathering the staff is probably your organization’s most common meeting. It’s also likely that it’s your most common time-waster.
Staff Meeting Should Add Value
When I’ve asked managers why they hold them, they can’t believe I would even ask a question with such an obvious answer.
It’s tradition. That’s just what managers do. If they didn’t pull their groups together once in a while, they wouldn’t look managerial.
Regular staff meetings have potential, but only if people stop thinking of them as routine and start planning them like an ad hoc meeting. They need a meaningful purpose, other than because it’s Tuesday at 9:00 a.m.
Imagine heading into a staff meeting that you knew was going to address the spike in complaints from the company’s East Coast customers. Now that would be a meeting with potential.
Consider Skipping the Staff Meeting
Maybe you don’t need the staff meeting at all. At the very least, you could get by with fewer of them.
The two usual justifications are:
- Everyone needs to know what’s going on.
- We need to strengthen teamwork within the group.
Here’s the problem. People tell me they really don’t care what their coworkers did last week, and they aren’t getting that warm, fuzzy feeling of teamwork that you hoped they would experience.
Knowing what people are working on has some merit, even if your staff doesn’t see it that way. But because you call the staff meetings, I’ve got to ask a delicate question. Is your intention truly for everyone to hear what each is doing, or are you taking everyone’s time in order to meet your need to know what’s going on?
If it’s the latter, don’t be too hard on yourself. You have plenty of company.
Individual Check-Ins Save Time
Think about what’s going on here. Let’s say you have a staff of ten. It’s as if you are having 10 short check-in conversations with each member of your team and forcing everyone else to listen in on them. The only conversations individuals care about are the ones that involve them.
If you are going to do one-on-one conversations, then you should have one-on-one meetings. While it’s more work for you, it saves time. Do the math. If you do the staff meeting, you and your 10 team members will likely spend an hour. Total meeting employee time equals eleven hours.
Let’s say you instead do a 15-minute check-in meeting with each person. Now you have to sit through two-and-a-half hours of meetings, and your team collectively sits through the same amount. Total meeting time equals five hours.
You’d have to stretch these check-in meetings to about 30 minutes per employee before reaching the break-even point. At 15 minutes, each person gets more individual attention than you are able to give in a meeting. Score extra points for paying better attention to your employees.
I know your time is important, maybe even more important than your staff’s time. But they don’t see it that way, and don’t want you to waste it. Count the hours. Do the math. The answer is clear.
If No Discussion Is Needed, Send Email Updates
Want another option? Skip the check-in meetings too. Instead, tell people what you need to know and what you don’t. Ask them to communicate that information to you via email.
If you choose this method, keep in mind that you still need to read what people have written. They need to produce it. Writing what they view as a report may be a time-consuming undertaking. You probably ought to provide some sort of written acknowledgment also.
Overall, I don’t think this option saves much time, but it might be the best option, especially when people aren’t co-located. Even then, I’d rather see you use quick phone check-in meetings.
If Bonding Is Your Goal, Make that the Focus
As for the second goal of strengthening teamwork, you do need to bring people together to accomplish it. The problem is that it rarely happens when people provide updates to one another. That’s not a rock-your-world kind of activity.
If that’s your goal, create a session that specifically focuses on helping people become a stronger team. Team building doesn’t happen by chance. It happens by design. Be purposeful.