Sending the Right Messages

How to make staff meetings more effective

Every first Tuesday at 9 a.m., Maria Tajil Battle, senior vice president of public affairs and marketing for Keystone Mercy Health Plan, a managed care organization in Philadelphia, meets with her top managers.

Battle sees these meetings as a perfect opportunity for the staff to discuss projects and for her to inform them about what’s happening companywide, including satisfying the company’s goals. And it is from these meetings that Battle gathers information to report to her bosses about the division’s activities. “It’s important that everyone knows what everyone else is doing,” says Battle.

The staff meeting, one of three types she holds monthly, works from what Battle calls a “living agenda,” which is distributed before the meeting. It contains some regular items but may include other points that need to be addressed. For example, an administrative assistant may ask to be added to the agenda to discuss vacation, time sheets, or supplies.

During the meeting, Battle’s assistant reports the minutes from the last meeting. According to Battle, the reading of the minutes gives people who might not have been at the last meeting a chance to catch up. Fifteen minutes before they adjourn, there is a roundtable for participants who are not on the agenda.

Battle finds these meetings, which last approximately two hours, effective. Here are several guidelines to help you:

Have a PAL
The purpose, agenda, and logistics should serve as the framework for a meeting, according to Dianne Daniels, principal, Dawson Daniels Partners, a business consulting and strategy company located in Flossmoor, Illinois. “Meetings are most effective when people, prior to going into a meeting, have a general idea of what the meeting is about.”
Make it Plain
Daniels says the agenda should state the meeting’s overall purpose and length. It should also include specific bullet items to be reviewed and the name of the person who is leading the topics to be discussed.
“I’ve been in many situations where I was expected to speak and I had no idea that they wanted me to do that,” says Daniels, who notes that such a situation can have a negative impact on the meeting. “They [the participants] may not get as much information as they would have had the person been prepared.”

Stay on Track
“You have to have a good facilitator of the meeting to make sure that people are using the time wisely,” offers Daniels. “You need to be well aware when someone is taking the meeting off track. You can then say to them, ‘Let’s set aside this item to be discussed privately’ or set up a separate meeting with this as the only agenda item.”

Show the Results
The key things you want to discuss during the meeting are results, not activities, says Terry Owens, group director, employee relations of MASCO Inc., in Taylor, Michigan. “Results are measurable. For example, [talk about] a milestone on a particular project or mention that you ‘launched a project’ versus ‘wrote a report.’”

Watch the Wrap-up
At the end of the meeting, you always want to leave people with a sense of

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