Snarky Behavior

How to: Run an All-Staff Meeting

July 23, 2008 · 2 Comments

This may be a sensitive subject and unwise to post about, but I promise not to be mean or snarky.  Think of it as bottom-up constructive criticism.

An all-staff weekly morning meeting represents an opportunity to sit and socialize, perhaps even enjoy some breakfast foods while not working.  For some people, the staff meeting may allow for an opportunity to gain some recognition that they need to validate their work.  I can understand and appreciate that, especially for people who work on smaller accounts.

Here’s the thing:  nobody likes a long staff meeting.  They’re boring and unproductive.  Nothing makes the rest of the day more sluggish than an hour plus long meeting that is not in any way relevant to your work. People get antsy.  They start checking their watches.  They start tuning out.  They become a passive audience.  Eventually, the meeting loses its value.

For all of you future leaders out there who will one day run staff meetings, here are some things to keep in mind:

Set the Agenda – Have an agenda and work through it.  Make sure everyone at the meeting knows what they’re there for and what they’re expected to share.  Don’t let meetings develop organically… you risk unnecessary over-shares.  Once a precedent is set for unnecessary over-shares, you’re guaranteed to have a meeting that lasts at least half an hour.

Share Vital Information ONLY– The following are examples of things worthy of sharing in an all-staff meeting:

  1. Any clients coming into the office between now and the next staff meeting.
  2. Any key staff members OUT of the office between now and the next staff meeting.
  3. Any MAJOR events.  This depends on your industry, but you should be able to tell what a major event is.
  4. Any jobs that require outside assistance, or an office notice that the fax/copier/printer will be tied up.
  5. Any major staff changes or other important Human Resources information.
  6. Any particular challenges your team is facing that might require institutional knowledge from another account.  Don’t discuss it then; explain your problem and ask people to approach you after the meeting if they have ideas for solutions.
  7. Any brown bag lunches or other informational sessions/opportunities that you know about and that your co-workers might be interested in attending.

That’s it.  Don’t share anything else.  That meeting you’re preparing for in two weeks?  Share it next week.  That 2-month long project you started a month ago?  Assuming you shared about it when you first started, people already know what it is and that you’re still working on it.  That neat article you read?  E-mail it around (or better yet, bookmark it or share it on your reader).  The neato lessons you learned at the conference you attended?  Organize a brown-bag session about it.

Standing Room Only – If you make a policy of standing during staff meetings, I guarantee that they won’t ever last beyond 15 minutes.  That’s about how long you can stand in one place before your feet start to hurt.  Everyone shares in the impatience of standing in place, and that impatience inherently makes everyone more judicious in their evaluation of what information the entire staff absolutely NEEDS to know.

When people go into a meeting knowing that it will only last 15 minutes, they will pay attention more closely.  They will be more active and engaging in the conversation.  They will be energized by a quick status update rather than a lethargic “bored” meeting.  And they will spend more time doing billable work, and less time hearing about so-and-so’s frustration with their client who is a timid but demanding technophobe, and yada  yada yada.

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