A manager I know came up with the best idea I ever saw for having her staff meetings be short and smart. Her name is Sharon, and she has a staff of 14 direct reports. I borrowed her idea myself when I managed a conference, and I have recommended it to every manager I ever worked with. She had some rules, of course.
Rule #1. Always have the meeting in a room with a whiteboard or a flip chart.
Rule #2. Write the group goal at the top of the whiteboard or flip chart.
Rule #3. Track the assignments for each staff person – everything they are responsible for, including projects, tasks, communications, etc. – as well as when they are due. Add any clarifying notes as needed.
Here’s what Sharon’s meeting room whiteboard looked like (shortened for sanity’s sake):
Customers Pleased, Employees Valued, and Bottom-line Business Growth for the Future
|Assignment(s) – Project, Task, etc.||Due Date||
|Aaron||1. Newsletter out
2. Staff review of customer survey report
|Work with Karen|
|Joan||1. Billing program updates
2. Software training manuals ready
|Zack||1. Budget review and approval
2. New carpet in front entry
Sharon used this display as her meeting agenda. At the start of each meeting, the group went through the list and reviewed each person’s assignments and what they had to say about how things are going – problems, breakthroughs, calls for help. Sharon always asked them to say what’s next, or she would let them know what she saw was needed by the next meeting. Then the board would be updated for next week’s meeting.
There was one last rule that Sharon kept as a way for people to be related in a way that she called “our non-agenda life”:
Rule #4. Use either the first or the last 10-15 minutes for an update on “Human Being News”. This was the part of the meeting where a few people would speak up about something that was either good, bad, or exciting in their personal or home life. It didn’t take long, and it added a dose of humanity to the business of producing results.
Sharon’s meetings worked – everyone knew what everyone else was working on and stayed on track with the work to be done. The meetings had a good energy and value for each participant, and her department was one of the most pleasant and productive workplaces I’ve ever seen.