Ten ways to ruin your staff meetings (if you even have them!)

While most practice managers realize staff meetings are an important part of practice success, such meetings take place infrequently and, when they do happen, often fail to receive the planning and attention they deserve.

"I don't have time for regular staff meetings" is the refrain I often hear from busy practice managers.

At a recent ophthalmology conference I facilitated, I asked about 30 practice managers how frequently they ran a staff meeting. Fewer than 6% had a meeting weekly, a few more had them bi-monthly (about 10%), and about 60% said they held them monthly. What really got me interested in writing about this topic was the fact that a decent number said they never had staff meetings because they "just did not see the value," because "staff did not get anything out of it." One practice manager said, "We have a meeting and we talk about all the things we are going to do and, within a few days, they just go back to doing what they were doing before." Dare I say that their behavior before the meeting was not exactly what you'd hoped it would be?

Common mistakes

Here are my top 10 ways to ruin staff meetings. If you want to have success with staff meetings, please avoid these mistakes.

1. Say you don't really need a meeting. The main reason for calling a meeting is to accomplish a goal or objective, and you believe that face-to-face interaction is the best way to make that happen. Now you need to ask yourself, "Is there a better way to accomplish my goals and objectives? Could a conference call, a one-on-one meeting, or a string of selective e-mails suffice (or even be better)?" Consider who needs to be there, the cost, the time it will take, etc., before you decide to call a meeting.

2. Cancel the meeting at the last minute. Under changing circumstances, canceling a planned staff meeting may feel like the prudent thing to do at the time, but make sure it is the last-ditch decision. Keep in mind that others (and you, as well) have allocated this time and, perhaps, put other issues on the back burner or canceled something altogether to make this meeting. Staff has budgeted time, prepared for their respective contributions/roles, and in many cases, are looking forward to participating and coming away with a plan of action. If you must cancel, give as much notice as possible and let the attendees know that you will reschedule it at a time convenient for all. Let them know their understanding and willingness to do it at another time is appreciated.

3. Start late. Starting late sends a message to all attendees that either you are not prepared to start the meeting, or their time is not valuable in your eyes (or both). Be prepared and respectful of everyone's time. If it is time to start and not everyone is there, then you have to change plans and make the most prudent decision. I suggest you be ready on time and respect those that show up on time by starting the meeting.

4. Don't have an agenda. Having an agenda lets employees know what to expect and how to prepare. Do this by using a simple form in plain text format via interoffice mail or by e-mail (maybe the bulletin board in the break room is your best bet). Review the agenda the day before the meeting and make sure all topics and time allocations are appropriate.