By Colleen Hannegan, ABOC, CPO
Sept. 27, 2017
Regular staff meetings, whether weekly, or a “daily huddle,” can keep your practice running efficiently. You can discuss what’s working, and what isn’t, and brainstorm solutions together. But those meetings won’t be useful if they are not organized and implemented in a way that holds employees’ attention, and creates actionable tasks.
Here are tips gleaned from the Fast Company article, How 12 Companies Make Meetings Memorable, Effective, And Short, and the Forbes article, Seven Steps to Running the Most Effective Meetings Possible, which I have adapted for eyecare practices.
Different approaches to meetings work for different practices, depending on your practice culture. Some of these tips may be right for you, and others may be better suited to a different kind of practice. And sometimes you may be surprised how well a strategy works once you try it.
Read Staff Body Language
Just looking at your employees as they walk into your meetings can be a tip-off that they lack engagement. Ideally, employees would look alert and ready to deliver and receive information.
Instead this may sound familiar: They drag themselves into the room half-asleep. Half of them are late with smartphones in hand to watch something more interesting than you. No one has questions, answers or an original idea to offer. They are there because you required them to be, but with no thought, or direction from you, on how they can contribute to the meeting, and what they should take away from it to guide their work in the coming week.
According to the National Statistics Council, 35 percent of employees’ work time is spent in meetings, and 47 percent of employees consider too many meetings the biggest waste of time during the day. If 4.7 out of your 10 employees are not listening, why bother?
As the meeting organizer, you need to first figure out yourself what you want to accomplish in each meeting. From there, think about which employees have information you need, and which employees should carry out tasks that need to be done. Once you know yourself the to-dos of the meeting, you should do something that may never have occurred to you before–find ways to make the meeting memorable and fun!
13 Actions to Take for More Effective Meetings
START MEETINGS AT ODD TIMES. How about starting at 8:13 a.m. or 7:53 a.m.? Or maybe you prefer after-lunch meetings at 12:47 p.m. That’s what Tiny Pulse, an employee engagement software provider, does. They found that setting meetings to start at odd times significantly eliminates tardiness, according to communications manager Neal McNamara. The odd time made it easier for staff to remember the meeting, and stimulated creative thinking.
COLLECT SMARTPHONES. Let employees know that you have a new no-phones policy for all business meetings, and ask them to leave their phones at their work station, or to deposit the phones into a basket located near the door, and to turn off, or silence, the phones before leaving them there.
START WITH POSITIVE COMMENT. Start every meeting with a positive comment about one, or two jobs, well done. Or what a beautiful morning it is, even if it’s raining cats and dogs outside, or the black ice made it a miserable drive to work. Find something about the morning that everyone should feel good about.
ASK EMPLOYEES TO COLOR. Before you say, “But this isn’t a kindergarten class!,” studies show that using the creative part of the brain helps promote active listening. Just ask Plum Organics innovation director Jen Brush. Every Thursday her staff meetings include coloring books as they discuss creative marketing. Coloring is relaxing and stimulates the creative part of the brain.
REQUIRE LATE EMPLOYEES TO SING. A late employee to the meeting? New rule, anyone late has to sing a song. Vice-president Darrell Gehrt at Inquisium requires this of late comers to meetings. It’s a fun “punishment” that nevertheless discourages repeat offenders.
GET A STOPWATCH. Your meetings should have a start, middle and end. Having an agenda keeps everyone focused. If the meeting runs over, the last person talking has to do five pushups.
SIT OUTSIDE. Is there a nearby park with a comfortable, shady spot during good-weather days? Fresh air, fresh views, fresh perspectives. Being in nature reduces stress and feels good.
PROMPT QUESTIONS. Don’t be in a hurry to end the meeting with more management chatter. Q&A is the time for
employees to participate. If no one speaks up, hold their gaze for a full 15 seconds, and don’t distract yourself. It’s a long time when no one is raising a hand and it’s quiet. It’s uncomfortable for the employees, so most of the time, someone will pose a question. Pausing silently shows you care enough to listen, and will wait for questions.
MOVE IT TO A RESTAURANT QUARTERLY. Quarterly, or biannual, meetings at a nice restaurant for lunch or dinner is always appreciated by staff. Working with one of your preferred frame reps to co-sponsor the meal makes the meeting a win-win, with employees gaining learning about the products you sell, and you and your employees gaining a nice meeting setting. Consider meetings at restaurants as a treat for quarterly goals met, or just because everyone’s attitude has been cohesive and extra positive.
APPOINT A “WINGMAN.” Jessica Pryce-Jones, CEO and Management Consultant for iOpener Institute and co-author of “Running Great Meetings & Workshops for Dummies,” says to set an agenda and stay on purpose, and to designate a wingman. The wingman keeps you focused on topic, keeps time, alerts you to hands raised, and oversees the planning and distribution of hand-outs and refreshments, and anything else you want your employees to have. Choose a different wingman for each meeting, so one employee doesn’t get stuck with all the extra work every time.
USE ONE-ON-ONE MEETINGS SOMETIMES. Consider one-on-one meetings in lieu of group meetings as needed.
Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman meets with his staff individually each week. “I do feel like the company psychiatrist, but I feel that listening to people and hearing their problems (personal and professional), cleans out the cobwebs and keeps the organization humming.”
ASK EMPLOYEES TO RECALL LAST MEETING. At the beginning of each meeting, try asking staff if they remember what the last meeting was about, or a few of the key topics addressed. Call on one employee each time at random (make sure it’s not always the same person) to provide a few highlights from the prior week’s meeting. You can be sure all employees will make mental, and maybe even written, notes, so at the next meeting, if called on, they will be prepared.
ASK ABOUT RESULTS FROM LAST MEETING. Go around the table, and ask each employee how the tasks identified at the last meeting are being addressed. Doing this shows you expect follow-through, and are watching for results.
Colleen Hannegan ABOC CPO, is a licensed optician, and owner of Spirited Business Advisor, a consultancy that works with small businesses, including independent eyecare practices, on how best to serve customers and generate profitability. To contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org