In a word: Yes! An efficient, well-run staff meeting can energize your team, strengthen their commitment to the practice, ensure accountability, and help the practice run more smoothly. However, without proper planning and competent meeting facilitation, your meetings could end up as the old joke describes—events where minutes are kept and hours are wasted.
Following are some tips to help you conduct constructive, more effective medical practice staff meetings, where participants walk away feeling that their time has been well-spent.
Make sure every meeting has a facilitator.
While a skilled facilitator or manager can make all the difference in the net value of a meeting, it is important to note that just having a manager in the room will not ensure that the attendees stay on task and discuss relevant issues. Meeting managers must come prepared to lead and should have experience in both verbal and nonverbal communication skills as well as conflict resolution.
Prepare and distribute a written agenda in advance.
Holding a meeting without an agenda is a bit like sending dancers onto a dance floor without coordinating the choreography. There might be a lot of motion after the music starts, but it’s more likely to be pandemonium than focused momentum and artistry. When the meeting is a regularly scheduled event, you can minimize preparation time by creating a template for the agenda.
Consider the list of potential meeting attendees.
Make sure everyone who is invited has a reason for being there and knows what that reason is, even if it’s to provide an outside, less-informed perspective. Confirm that key decision-makers will be in attendance if their approval is necessary for implementing significant decisions.
Avoid holding a meeting just to hold a meeting.
Regularly scheduled meetings frequently occur simply because they’re on the calendar—not because anything meaningful is planned for discussion. Both participants and meeting managers tend to become negligent in their preparation for standing meetings and often end up rehashing the same topics over and over again. You can avoid this dilemma by taking time to plan for every meeting, distributing agendas in advance, and encouraging participants to come prepared.
Start and end meetings on time, even if every attendee is not yet present.
If the meeting manager does not begin on time, the meeting is likely to run over the allotted time, creating a cycle of poor meeting management. Pay close attention to the time throughout the meeting to make sure the agenda is being followed and the meeting stays on schedule. If team members wish to discuss an item that is not on the agenda and not pertinent to the meeting topics, suggest tabling the discussion until a separate meeting can be arranged to address that item. Then follow through by ensuring that such a meeting is actually scheduled.
Give participants a chance to be heard.
Invite them to report on their progress and noteworthy achievements. Celebrate victories and brainstorm solutions to setbacks. When asking team members to contribute, be sure to specify the amount of time and the parameters for presentation or discussion. Establish the expectation that contributing team members will come prepared with a constructive presentation and will not view their time as an opportunity for “soap box” discourse or to promote personal agendas.
When possible, reserve time at the end of the meeting for questions and comments that are relevant to the topics at hand but may not have been included on the agenda.
Document the discussions and activities of your meetings.
You can assign someone to take the minutes for distribution to all meeting attendees (and for those who were unable to attend). Minutes should include key points of discussion, decisions made, action items and the responsible parties, as well as due dates. At the next meeting, be sure to follow up by checking the status of each assignment and documenting the progress made.
By taking time to plan ahead and by learning to manage meetings both efficiently and effectively, you will create a culture of accountability and buy-in where team members become engaged in the planning and implementation of critical initiatives.