The Overlooked Management Tool
By Kate Zabriskie
‘I sit right next them. We don’t need to have a staff meeting.’
‘I used to have staff meetings, but we stopped having them. Nobody had anything to talk about.’
‘We have enough meetings. We certainly don’t need another.’
For a myriad of reasons, many managers don’t hold regular staff meetings. Furthermore, most who do don’t get the most they could from them, and that’s too bad. Good staff meetings can focus a team, energize employees, and engage them in ways ad-hoc interactions don’t.
So how do you turn a halted or ho-hum approach to staff meetings into a high-functioning management tool?
STEP ONE: Connect Daily Work with Your Organization’s Purpose
In addition to distributing information, staff meetings present an opportunity to connect your team’s daily work to your organization’s purpose. If you’re thinking, ‘My people know how their work fits into our overall goal,’ you would be wrong. In fact, if you ask your group what your organization’s purpose or your department’s purpose are, don’t be surprised when you get as many answers as there are people in the room. (And you thought you had nothing to talk about in a staff meeting. A discussion about purpose is a good one to have.)
Purpose is why you do what you do. You connect the work to it by explaining how what people did aligns with the greater goal. For example, the head of housekeeping at a busy hotel might hold a meeting with the cleaning staff. In that meeting, the managers might recognize a team that received a perfect room score from all guests who took a survey and then talk about purpose.
The purpose of the hotel is to provide people a safe and comfortable place to spend the night. Having a clean, welcoming, and functioning room is one of the ways a cleaning staff achieves that goal.
“Purpose is why you do what you do. You connect the work to it by explaining how what people did aligns with the greater goal.”
By regularly connecting such activities as cleaning toilets, making beds, and folding towels to the guest experience, the manager highlights why each of those activities is important.
No matter what they do, employees usually enjoy their jobs more when their organization’s leaders talk about the importance of their work. They also tend to make better choices if they receive frequent reminders about purpose and what types of activities support it.
STEP TWO: Highlight Relevant Metrics
Connecting work to purpose usually works best when a team focuses on both anecdotal and analytical information. If you don’t currently track statistics, start. What you track will depend on your industry. However, whatever you decide should have a clear line of sight to the larger goal.
For instance, a museum that holds events to attract new members might track the number of events held, contact information collected, memberships sold, and the percentage of new memberships that come as a result of attending the free event. With regular attention placed on the right metrics, the team is far more likely to make good choices as to where it should focus its efforts.
STEP THREE: Follow a Formula and Rotate Responsibility
Successful staff meetings usually follow a pattern, such as looking at weekly metrics, sharing information from the top, highlighting success, a team-building activity, and so forth. By creating and sticking with a formula, managers help their employees know what to expect.
Once employees know the pattern of the meeting, many are capable of running it because they’ve learned by watching. Managers then have a natural opportunity to rotate the responsibility of the meeting to different people. By delegating, the manager is able to free up his or her time and provide employees with a chance to develop their skills.
STEP FOUR: Celebrate Successes
In many organizations, there is a huge appreciation shortage. Staff meetings provide managers and employees with regular intervals to practice gratitude.
“I’d like to thank Tom for staying late last night. Because he did, I was able to attend a parent-teacher conference.”
“Maryann’s work on the PowerPoint presentation was superb. I want to thank her for preparing me with the best slides shown at the conference. The stunning photos outshined the graphics others used. Maryann’s work really made our company look good.”
A steady drip of sincere gratitude can drive engagement. Note the word: sincerity. Most people have an amazing capacity to identify a false compliment. Real praise is specific. Well-delivered praise also ties the action to the outcome. Whether it’s being able to attend a conference, looking good in front of others, or some other result, people appreciate praise more when they understand how their actions delivered results. A praise segment in your staff meetings ensures you routinely take the time to recognize efforts.
STEP FIVE: Focus on Lessons Learned and Continuous Improvement
Staff meetings that include an opportunity to share lessons learned help drive continuous improvement. At first, people may be reluctant to share shortcomings. However, if you follow step four, you should begin to develop better communication and a sense of trust with your team. Modeling the process is a good place to start.
“I learned something this week I want to share with you. I had a call with a client that could have gone better. I’m going to tell you what happened and then I’ll discuss some ideas about how I would handle something similar in the future.”
The more you practice this exercise, the greater the gains you should experience.
STEP SIX: Develop a Schedule and Stick with It
Almost anyone can follow the first five steps some of the time, but those who get the most out of staff meetings hold them consistently. They publish a meeting schedule, and they stick with it. They may shorten a meeting from time to time or reschedule, but they don’t treat their chance to gather the team as the least important priority.
Good staff meetings aren’t perfunctory activities that add little value. On the contrary, when used to their full capacity, they are a dynamic management tool. Now what are you going to do about yours? u
Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised; www.businesstrainingworks.com.