I asked the crowd, “Raise your hand if you’ve been to a really stupid staff meeting.” Every hand in the room went up. “Keep your hand up, if you find most staff meetings in your career could have been more efficient.” Nearly all hands stayed raised, with the exception of the new kid, who’s in his first job, sitting next to his current boss. He grins knowingly and stays quiet.
Most meetings suck, but staff meetings are amongst the suckiest. Interestingly, my experience has been that the higher the pay grade of the people in the room, the more stupid they become. And, wasted time gets even more expensive.
Why? Because they’re usually scheduled on regular intervals for a pre-determined period of time, rather than for a specific purpose. Often there’s an agenda, but seldom a concrete plan on how to maximize the experience.
I asked, Paul Axtell, author of Meetings Matter: Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations about this phenomena:
“They’ve gotten bad because people aren’t thinking about them and take for granted that people will show up. Information sharing is never a good reason to meet–that can be done in different ways. If you don’t have topics that need real conversation, cancel the meeting. If you’ve got real substance to discuss, hold the meeting, but only for as long as you need, with the people who need to be there. Don’t add a “Let’s go around the table for general updates” to fill the time.
3 Great Conversations to Have at Staff Meetings
I asked Paul for some pointers for the best way to generate real conversations at staff meetings
1. Cultural Conversations
Use staff meetings to gain alignment on cultural issues and how you’re going to respond to specific situations. “Let’s kick this around” topics are great.
- “Let’s talk about how we’re going to address supervisors who are getting great results the wrong way.”
- “How are we going to respond when someone is chronically late?”
- “What’s really getting in the way of people using our new system?”
2. The Elephant in the Room
Ask your team, “What are the conversations we’re not having that we should be having?” And then, go there.
3. How We Lead
“Let’s talk about how we’re leading our people. What’s working well? Where do we need help?” It’s particularly valuable to give people a chance to ask for help. “I’ve got this situation and I’d like to get your best thinking…” And then, watch colleagues think out loud about your situation.
Meetings matter. Don’t waste this important opportunity to build powerful connections.
For more information about Paul and his book and for additional resources, visit his site.