An old adage defines a meeting as a gathering of a group of people where hours are wasted and minutes are taken. When employees in many companies are asked about their pet peeves in their workplace, a frequent response is that there are too many meetings and that the meetings they are forced to attend have little value for them.
Meetings that are properly planned and executed can offer many developmental opportunities for your employees. Here are some ideas on how to use your staff meetings to develop your employees’ skills.
1. Assign a different staff employee to put together the agenda for each staff meeting. This will require the person to gather information from you (the manager) and other staff members on reports to be made and issues to be discussed, to discuss priorities with you, and allot time to each agenda item. [Development Areas: Getting a broader perspective of the work of all members; developing business acumen; meeting management skills; learning more about the manager’s priorities]
2. At each staff meeting assign a staff member to bring in and lead a learning activity, such as discussing a recent problem situation, circulating an article of interest and the leading a discussion of it, suggesting a change in how the group does its work and leading a discussion of it, or bringing in information on a competitor’s product and service and leading a discussion of
it. [Development Areas: Leading a discussion; listening skills; presentation skills; learning about the perspectives of other staff members; receiving feedback]
3. Rotate responsibility for facilitating each staff meeting among staff members. [Development Areas: Listening skills; meeting management skills; facilitation skills; conflict management skills]
4. Brainstorm the solution to a problem, challenge, or opportunity in a staff meeting. In some cases, you may want to announce the topic and start right in during the meeting; in other cases, you may want to tell people of the topic ahead of time so they can
think about alternatives before the brainstorming session. [Development Areas: Brainstorming skills; listening skills; influencing
skills; developing synergy among staff members; critical and creative thinking skills]
5. Invite a guest speaker to a staff meeting. This could be a customer or a supplier (internal or external) who can address how the two groups can work together more easily and effectively. [Development Areas: Listening skills; critical and creative thinking skills; problem analysis skills]
6. Assign a staff member to run the staff meeting in your absence (e.g., while you are away on business or on vacation).
[Development Areas: Meeting management; leadership; management skills; conflict management skills]
7. In running your staff meetings, take the time to notice who among your staff tend to dominate the discussions and who participate little, if at all. Develop your own meeting management skills to get the introverts on your staff to participate more and
the extraverts to limit their input. Not only will this result in more equal participation, but it will also model meeting management and facilitation skills for your staff members. [Development Areas: Meeting management skills; facilitation skills; leadership
8. Open yourself to new ideas. When a staff member suggests a change in how the group handles a procedure or process, and it is something that you “know” won’t work, or it varies from the procedures you have put in place, don’t just reject it out of hand, but ask probing questions to help the employee develop the idea. Perhaps the idea won’t work, but it may also be that a discussion of the idea may spark others to suggest improvements that will work. Just because a suggestion differs from how you would do something yourself doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have value. By handling these situations well, you will be modeling skills that you want your staff members to develop. [Development Areas: Facilitation skills; critical and creative thinking
skills; conflict management skills]
9. Bring an exercise into a staff meeting to help staff members better understand themselves and others. For example, you might ask someone from the company’s organization development (OD) group to come to a meeting and administer an assessment instrument, such as DiSC, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), or the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Inventory. These types of instruments can help staff members (and you) better understand their own working styles and those of other group members. There are many such instruments available in the marketplace – you should make certain that you are using a validated instrument and that the facilitator you use to administer the instrument has been trained in its use. A skilled facilitator can use the instrument to help coach the group and individuals within the group on how to be more effective in working with others. [Development Areas: Self-understanding and self-management; understanding and working with others;
dealing with conflict]
10. Throw your staff a curveball – be creative. Instead of following your usual agenda for a staff meeting, take the staff on a field trip to spark their thinking and creativity. Choose a site for the field trip that is very different from what they usually do or what your company typically does. Visit a customer or supplier to see how they do things differently from you. I once took my staff for an afternoon to the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum to spark ideas for how we could better design training
materials. Or take your staff to an Apple retail store to see how differently it is designed and how differently its staff members work. The possibilities are endless. But also make certain that you follow up the field trip with discussions of what everyone saw and how you might use some of those new and different ideas and methods to improve your own operations. [Development Areas: Creative and critical thinking skills]
11. Introduce a new analysis tool to help solve a problem. Many analysis tools exist, such as those used in the realm of quality provement, that can help employees and groups better analyze and solve problems. Tree diagrams, affinity mapping, force field analysis, and fishbone diagrams are among the many tools that have proved useful in analyzing problems and making decisions. Teach your staff a new tool and start using it in your staff meetings. Your staff will then learn how to use the tools themselves, resulting in better problem analysis and decision making. [Development Areas: Critical and creative thinking; analytical thinking; decision making]
12. Help your staff see the larger context of their work. A General Electric Aerospace commercial shows the staff who make jet
engines standing on a runway while a plane takes off using the engines they have designed and manufactured. Too often, employees are so focused on their particular work tasks that they lose sight of the larger context of their work. By demonstrating to them how their work contributes to larger organizational goals, employees develop a better understanding of the business of which they are a part and start developing their own business acumen. [Development Areas: Business acumen; taking pride in one’s work]
Food For Thought
What if every manager, at every level within an organization, started each meeting with the question: “What have we
learned since our last meeting that will help us better meet our goals?”
The first few times this question is asked, there will likely be little response, except for puzzled looks on the faces of
the participants. But if you persist in asking this question to start each meeting, people will start getting
the idea that you are serious about this and will start providing answers, and good answers at that.
Not only will this make every employee aware of his or her personal responsibility for learning, but will go far in
establishing a positive learning environment within the organization.