Reinventing Staff Meetings

Here is another article from this month’s Forum magazine that mirrors one I wrote in the Always Done It That Way book and blog. This one is on staff meetings.

Now, unlike the teambuilding article, I agree with many of the basic points the author makes in his article: primarily that staff meetings are typically very poorly run, and a clearer structure will help. More specifically, the structure of staff meetings should change depending on what you want out of the meeting. Amen to that.

But like most of the articles I read in August’s issue, this one seems to be emanating from an acceptance of basic status quo tenets. It doesn’t want to reinvent staff meetings, they simply want to change a few aspects of a fundamentally sound model. For example, consider this quote:

Yes, an agenda is important for a meeting. Attendees need to know that the leader has clearly thought about the meeting and is not going to be “winging it.”

I understand where he’s coming from. Showing up every week with a “So, what do you want to talk about?” agenda will get annoying very quickly. But "clear thought" and leader-designed agendas are not the same thing. I also don’t think winging it is so bad!

For instance, I really like what author Patrick Lencioni has to say about staff meetings in his book, Death by Meeting. And in his proposed structure for staff meetings, he actually has a weekly meeting structure where the agenda is developed mid-way through the meeting. The meeting starts with a report on key metrics, and then there is a lightning round where people identify their pressing tactical issues facing them that week. After the lightning round, the group “wings it” by figuring out what is really most important to talk about.

I know a leader-designed meeting agenda is the way we’ve always done it, but maybe that should be challenged! Demanding an agenda before the meeting can sometimes put too much responsibility on the “leader” and not enough on the group. More on this topic next week.