When was the last time you looked at your calendar and realized that every working minute of your day was going to be spent in meetings? Probably not that long ago. And when you looked at that schedule what was your reaction? Excitement? Anticipation? More likely you thought “How am I ever going to get anything done if I’m in meetings all day?”
According to a Microsoft survey of 38,000 people in 200 countries, people spend an average of 5.6 hours each week in meetings and 69% of those surveyed feel meetings aren't productive. That's a lot of wasted time, no?
Here's the thing: with the right intention and structure, meetings can be highly productive. Really, they can! They're an integral part of how you can infuse effective communication throughout your business, and how you can ensure employee cooperation, buy-in, and focus toward your business goals.
In this article, we’ve outlined some basic points about how to conduct productive and inspiring staff meetings at all levels of your organization.
Types of meetings
What kind of meetings should you have in your business? How often should meetings take place? Who should be involved in the staff meetings? The answers to these questions depend on the nature of the business, your company culture, and your specific organizational structure. Some basic staff meetings that might occur in your organization include:
- Employee Development Meetings These meetings occur between a manager and their direct reports. They can help managers address employee issues such as inadequate performance or negative attitudes. They can also help facilitate the growth and success of individual employees.
- Department Meetings These meetings take place between all members of a given department. They help maintain a coherent team atmosphere and keep everyone on track and on the same page moving forward.
- Company Meetings These involve every member of an organization. They help the business owner ensure that everyone in the organization gets essential information in the same forum. They are similar to Department Meetings but on a larger scale.
- Strategic Planning Meetings These meetings can occur within or between departments, can involve managers and/or employees, and are generally geared for the purpose of working on specific business development goals and strategies.
- Financial Review and Analysis Meetings These meetings might involve a business owner, CEO and CFO (and possibly an outside accountant) who carefully review key financial reports to direct and inform their management decisions in the business.
The structure behind a productive meeting
The same Microsoft study we mentioned above found that the most common productivity pitfalls in the workplace are unclear objectives, lack of team communication and ineffective meetings. Regardless of what kind of staff meetings you choose to incorporate into your business, if you follow a basic set of guidelines and standards, you can turn them into extremely effective and productive activities.
- Have a clear purpose. Everyone in the meeting should know what result the meeting is supposed to produce, and why their participation is necessary. Whenever possible, the purpose of the meeting should be connected to the overall goal of the business, which can help keep everyone connected to that vision and how they fit into it.
- Follow a defined agenda. This includes (at a minimum) the time and duration of the meeting, the specific issues or ideas to be addressed, and any required resources or documents to bring to the meeting. Make sure that this information is shared with all attendees well in advance to ensure everyone is prepared and can get right to the heart of the matter at hand.
- Be action-oriented. If you walk away from a meeting without defined next steps, you haven’t done it right. Make sure your meetings include a follow-up plan that makes it very clear how each of you and/or the project will move forward, along with due dates for each step in the plan. Having a meeting just for the sake of having a meeting might be acceptable when getting together with an old college buddy or a group of friends for a sporting event, but staff meetings in your business must help drive the business forward.
It also helps to have a facilitator for each meeting, someone who assumes accountability for keeping the meeting focused and on track. You might also need a note taker who can disseminate the key points of the meeting and keep track of carry over items for follow up. You might also have the meeting recorded so that others can listen in as needed after the event.
While a facilitator is often necessary, staff meetings should essentially be a collaborative effort and should invoke the participation of everyone involved. The best meetings at all levels of an organization are energizing and motivating, as well as informative.
When conducted properly, staff meetings will support your progress toward your goals and be an important part of your company culture. Our clients who direct their attention and intention into creating effective staff meetings in their business experience increased levels of communication, productivity, accountability and cooperation. They really can serve as a catalyst to move your business forward; it’s all in how you approach them.
Share your story
How do you ensure your meetings are effective? What challenges have you faced in trying to hold effective meetings in your business? Post a comment below and tell us about it.