If only all staff meetings could be as entertaining as they are when TV boss Michael Scott on NBC’s sitcom The Office is in charge. Alas, for most of us, staff meetings can be a big yawn. Having attended and run thousands of these meetings, I know they are often brimming with bickering, minutiae, absenteeism and an overall lack of focus.
So why bother? The answer is two-fold: communication and collaboration.
I have always felt well-informed about what was happening in and around my companies. But I am often frustrated by the lack of initiative other members of my teams have taken in communicating with one another. The folks in product design needed to speak directly to the people in marketing. Marketing needed to be in close contact with sales and engineering. The times they did reach out to one another, it was often through email, instant messaging or some other electronic medium when a face-to-face encounter would have been more appropriate. Moreover, I have found that too frequently staffers opt for “the easy way out” instead of going directly to a colleague to resolve a conflict or address a concern. The result is a less-cohesive, less team-oriented company.
Over the years, I’ve tried a number of methods to make staff meetings more useful and productive. Here are my top five tips:
Pre-Meeting Status Reports
Requiring staffers to email succinct weekly reports to all attendees prior to staff meetings greatly reduces the time spent on minor or frivolous topics, especially related to the status of products or projects. This simple task takes almost no time and the emails need only contain accomplishments, near-term goals and any unresolved matters.
Establish a time limit for each meeting and stick to it. It should be the same every week. That way people know what to expect, they can plan accordingly, and you can develop a rhythm for the meetings. This keeps participants focused and helps them maintain their calendars effectively.
Topic du Jour
It is helpful to have a major topic on the agenda. It can be an upcoming product release, planning for an offsite, an office expansion or sales forecasting. After each of the attendees delivers their report, this broader topic gets a more in-depth look.
Emphasize the Positive
Requiring everyone to start off with something good that happened during the past week is an effective way to put people in a positive frame of mind.
Everyone I know has a different point of view on whether BlackBerrys and iPhones should be allowed in meetings. I find them to be very distracting and disruptive. Maybe they are a necessary evil, but I highly recommend banning them from the meeting room to keep on schedule, to stay focused, and to prevent unnecessary interruptions.
None of these ideas will turn your office into The Office, but hopefully they will help keep the gripes and yawns to a minimum, and in the process, promote even more effective communication throughout your organization.