How to lead a great meeting: the power of group interaction
By Stephen W. Earnhart, MS
Earnhart & Associates
You know how sometime you just have a great day? It seems like they don’t come that often anymore, and the "great" is not as great, but still, it happens.
I was at one of our facilities yesterday, getting there just as a general staff meeting was starting. In the past, I had emphasized to the management team the need to have staff meetings more often. This meeting just happened to occur upon my scheduled arrival. (Hmm ).
As it should, the meeting had an agenda that was posted in the lounge before the meeting so staff members could be prepared for the topics. As I took my seat, I was handed an agenda and quickly scanned it. Usual stuff. Necessary topics, but predictable and boring.
Scanning the room, I could tell the 18 staff members felt the same. Many had their eyes looking down in their laps. Not hard to figure out that electronic devices were competing for attention. The meeting quickly wound down to a satisfying death.
I felt compelled to add something, as everyone was looking at me. "What do we need to do differently tomorrow at the center?" I asked. I got their attention, although I did see rolling eyes from some of the nurses. "What are we going to change here?" I repeated. "How can we be better?"
It took an embarrassing few minutes before a few timid hands went up. "Why can’t we have another refrigerator in the lounge so we can bring our lunch and have room to put it there? The one we have now is too small," she asked. Why not indeed? Several people picked up their heads and shifted up in their seats.
"I have been here for three months," one employee said, "and I don’t even know everyone’s names."
"Why don’t we celebrate staff birthdays anymore?"
"Why don’t the vendors bring us lunch anymore? We still buy their stuff don’t we?"
The full group of 18 staff members started raising their hands or just shooting out questions.
"Why did we stop having Christmas parties and celebrate other holidays?"
"Is this place losing money? Are our jobs in jeopardy, or are the owners just cheap?"
The questions came faster than could be answered, but I noticed the business office manager quickly writing down the questions.
The entire demeanor of the group had changed. They had some great questions and some insightful solutions to others’ questions. It was interaction at its best! They were feeding each other, and everyone left satisfied! It was a great day!
How do you get your staff members to interact like this? First, you have to want it! Not all do. Sometimes the questions are not easy to answer. Example that came up, "Why don’t we have profit-sharing here when all the surgery centers in town have it?"
- Staff meetings should occur at least once a month. The more often, the better.
- An agenda is a must and should be posted in the lounge at least a week before each meeting. Allow staff members to add topics.
- Have guest speakers. The speaker could be a local fireman to update fire safety or a surgeon or anesthesia staff member.
- Add at least one of these topics at every meeting:
- Involve your staff members. Rotate who runs the meeting. Serve finger food if you can. Make it an event that the staff members look forward to having. .
- Have upbeat music playing
- things we need to change;
- events we need to schedule;
- We can do a better job at __________. (Pick a topic. Communications is always a popular topic to put in there);
- popular benchmarks (Staff members always want to know how they fare with the competition);
- interesting observations such as "The toys in the waiting room are torn and dirty" or "We don’t carry Coke products in the lounge"
- wish list.
5. Involve your staff members. Rotate who runs the meeting. Serve finger food if you can. Make it an event that the staff members look forward to having. Have upbeat music playing. .
Do something that will get their attention and give you a great day! [Earnhart & Associates is a consulting firm specializing in all aspects of outpatient surgery. Earnhart & Associates is in Austin, TX. E-mail: email@example.com.]