By NANCY BYERLY JONES, Special to Lawyers Weekly
I’d be a very rich gal if I had a nickel for every employee complaint I’ve heard during my 20-plus years of law office consulting about negative, unproductive staff meetings!
A No. 1 request from staff is the desire for upbeat and informative meetings. In some firms, they just want meetings that are taken seriously and not cancelled at a moment’s notice for non-emergency reasons (or excuses!). In others, they object to information and instructions being shared in a “shoot-from-the-hip” and rushed manner.
But history shows that firm leaders who plan for and hold productive, regular staff meetings are rewarded with high productivity, good office morale and efficiency.
Here’s a partial listing of recommended ingredients for successful staff meetings:
- Know what the objectives are for the meeting as well as what amount of time should be allotted to each matter (e.g. education, updates regarding firm news, 10-15-minute workshops conducted by different staff members each time, brainstorming of solutions needed for specific issues, Q&A time, etc.).
- Share an informal agenda with all participants a few days ahead of the meeting, ask them for suggestions about the agenda and remind everyone to come appropriately prepared.
- Decide on what the parameters and “rules” will be for all (e.g. Cell phones to be banned from meetings? Accountability for tardiness or no-shows? Plan for ensuring time for asking questions, responding, etc.)
- Plan ahead for how the meeting will be kept moving in a timely manner, how to nip any verbal or body language negativity at its onset, how to set a positive tone at the start, during the meeting and at its closure.
- Include time at each meeting for publicly thanking any deserving employees for things (big or small) they have done well and/or above and beyond the call of duty.
- Midway, take time to review the written agenda to ensure all matters being covered in a fair and timely manner.
- Before closing, have everyone write down what, if any, decisions were made, who is to do what by when and what agenda items need to be carried over until the next meeting or what new ones need to be added.
- Thank everyone for their participation and ask them to give you some quick feedback about what parts of the meeting worked well and what aspects may need some improvement. Also, encourage them to send you their written, confidential feedback via a memo if they prefer.
- Post-meeting, have a plan for monitoring who is to do what and ensure they are doing it. Again, are there any consequences for ignoring what employees were asked and agreed to do?
- Consider rotating meeting planners and facilitators instead of depending on the same person or persons to plan and conduct re-occurring staff meetings.
Any and all time spent learning how to plan and facilitate more effective meetings yields great rewards. The firm, its leaders, staff and clients will reap immediate and ongoing returns.
Editor’s note: Byerly Jones assists law offices, businesses and individuals with leadership and personnel development, strategic planning, systems and risk management. A former practicing attorney, she also serves as a mediator. For more information, check out www.nbjconsulting.com or www.lawbusinesstips.com.