#1 “Must Do!”

Hold regular, pre-planned and productive staff meetings.

#1 “Definitely Don’t!”

Without adequate preparation and the right facilitator to ensure employee meetings are productive, positive and efficient, don’t go there.

I could stop writing now as the most critical points of my message are listed above.  A checklist is offered below, however, with a partial, non-prioritized listing of other ingredients to include in recipes for ensuring successful staff meetings.

For a far more comprehensive article, please check out my 2002 Lawyers Weekly USA column entitled, “Staff Meetings: Can’t Live With (or without) Them!” (October 18, 2002).  I would make the same recommendations today as I did then adding, of course, video conferencing and other newer technologies and systems that have since become smart management tools.

All of us bemoan unproductive, hot air only, waste of time committees and meetings and the agony of attending such “events” (many CLE programs, too, for that matter!).  Hope all of you agree with me that we should not want our names included on anyone’s list of terrible meeting planners and facilitators.  And, yet, I’d be a very rich gal if I had a nickel for every employee complaint I’ve heard through my 20+ years of law office consulting about negative, unproductive staff meetings!

Likewise, a #1 request by staff is the desire for upbeat and informative meetings to be held.  In some firms, they just want them to be taken seriously and not events that can be cancelled at a moment’s notice for non-emergency reasons (or excuses!).  For others, no meetings are held at all.  Instead, what information and instructions are shared is typically done in a “shoot-from-the-hip” and rushed manner.

History repeatedly proves, however, that productivity, office morale and efficiency flourishes continually with firm leaders who plan adequately for and hold productive, regular staff meetings. These critical office characteristics, however, will be present only occasionally and fleetingly at best in offices with poor meeting planners and ineffective leaders.

As an aside, we all know that the right and best leaders for law offices is often not the most senior attorney or biggest rainmaker.  The day we all “get it” re smarter law office management and tools will be a HUGE and positive turning point for our clients, ourselves and our legal system as a whole.

Thanks for sticking with me so far and now here’s the promised partial listing of recommended “other” ingredients for successful staff meetings (in addition to my #1 Must Do and #1 Don’t Do’s above):

10 More Must Do’s

  1. Know what the objectives are for holding any meeting as well as what amount of time should be allotted to each matter (e.g. educational, 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.).
  2. 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.
  3. Decide on what the parameters and “rules” will be for all (e.g. Cell phones to be banned from meetings?  Any accountability for tardiness or no-shows? Plan for ensuring all get fair time for asking questions, responding, etc.)
  4. Plan ahead for how you 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Mid-way, take time to review the written agenda to ensure all matters being covered in a fair and timely manner.
  7. 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.
  8. Thank everyone for their participation and ask them to give you some quick feedback about what parts of the meeting worked very well and what aspects may need some improvement.  Also, encourage them to send you their written, confidential feedback via a memo if they prefer.
  9. Post-meeting – have a plan for monitoring who is to do what and ensure they are doing it.  Again, if not, are there any consequences for ignoring what they were asked and they agreed to do?
  10. Consider rotating meeting planners and facilitators instead of depending on the same person or persons to plan and conduct re-occurring staff meetings.

As I wrote in the 2002 article mentioned above, any and all time spent on 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.

About the author 

Nancy Byerly Jones

Nancy Byerly Jones and her husband reside on their mountainside ranch (“Little Hee Haw Farm”) with an energetic “family” of horses, donkeys (large and miniature), dogs and cats. Their favorite pastime is sharing the joy and fun of their animals and ranch life with their family, friends and clients.

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