Management Meetings

Dear Management Doctor:

Yesterday in our management meeting, our Town Manager requested that the four of us determine the best way to have more Productive Staff Meetings. We have a very small staff of 12 full time and 3 part time; this includes everyone from the Town Manager to the Public Works Crew. Everyone is required to attend the meeting on a very irregular basis, with lunch provided by the Town prior to the staff meeting. We have the usual announcements, new policies, changes in this or that. Some staff members provide a brief overview of topics that they think other staff members might be interested in, etc. Some staff members don't say a word at all or say they have nothing to share.

You know the room; everyone looks bored, but they were really happy that they were served lunch before they had to attend this staff meeting. We have a personal topic for each meeting, where everyone has to share something about themselves, there is always a theme. Most often everyone does participate. This brings us closer as a team and everyone has fun, but it is not a productive staff meeting, more of a get to know you better lunch break.

Any suggestions on how to have a more Productive Staff Meeting?

Leslie Lambert

Dear Leslie:

Take a look under Meetings using the search engine on our website at I have written four articles on this topic in the past so it is obviously a concern for many people. I won't repeat the prior articles here but will add or highlight a few ideas.

  1. I actually like sharing something about each other. You say this is not productive but assuming it helps to build the team, I think it is productive. Lunch is good too.
  2. Some of the announcements could be skipped and simply handled by an email.
  3. Discussions should be held on what is relevant to everyone. For example, talking about the mission and/or vision of the organization - assuming that there is one.
  4. I also like to have part of the meeting - say 15 minutes or so - devoted to training. This could be reporting on a recent management book or article or even a guest presenter.
  5. Try some fun brainstorming on a topic. Whoever runs this needs to know how to do a brainstorming session.
  6. How long does the meeting last? Maybe it needs to be shortened.
  7. Use the meeting to get input on a major Town problem that needs solving.
  8. Does the Town Manager dominate? If so, he or she may need to back off. Staff may be too intimidated to participate.
  9. What do you mean by "a productive staff meeting?" Possibilities seem to be:
    1. Teambuilding - that is "productive" so relax.
    2. Problem solving - only some problems would relate to this entire group. I would use brainstorming, given the kind of group you have. Properly done, this can be fun.
    3. Communications - much of this could be done by email. However, some items may benefit from a meeting format such as layoffs or budget issues.
    4. Training - this would depend on the perceived needs. However, revisiting the mission and vision is always important.
Maybe you are expecting too much from this meeting. Teambuilding and having lunch and some fun may be enough.

The Management Doctor

Reader Response

Our department of 15 people has solved this problem by having a weekly "10-Minute Staff Meeting." The agenda typically covers just 3 or 4 topics, such as recent action by our Commission or boards, mention of significant projects, customer service thoughts, acknowledgment of accomplishments, etc. It's also a time for the staff to bring up questions or concerns they may have. From time to time discussions will last longer than 10-15 minutes, but that's not typical.

Of course, topics that require in-depth discussion are typically handled separately and involve just the key participants. And items that need to be discussed individually are handled one-on-one.

I find that a quick, weekly gathering requires me to think regularly and precisely about what I need to communicate for my entire staff to be in the loop and well-informed.

Beckie Faulkenberry
Santa Rosa, FL

The Mayor for whom I used to work would schedule meetings in a room with no chairs. "No chairs make for short meetings," she used to say. She'd never schedule a meeting without sending out an advanced agena mdash; and if one were expected to report on a topic, she sent a personal note (not e-mail) with her request. Sometimes there were longer meetings (with chairs), but always an agenda and pre-meeting preparation.

Eric Jay Toll
Scottsdale, Arizona

Bravo!!!! Keeping people in the loop is so vital, yet is often overlooked. Kudos to you.

Carolyn Dabney

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