Makeover Your Practice Meetings
Here are 18 ways to make staff meetings more productive.
Bob Levoy, O.D.
If your staff meetings have become a waste of time; if the participants sit in stony silence with their arms folded, contributing little if anything to the discussion and waiting for the meeting to end, then give the following tips a try. They may revive the meetings by making them livelier, more interactive, productive and fun.
Why don't you . . .
1. Ask your staff what they consider the best time for a meeting and pay them if it's not during regular office hours. (Asking staff members to stay late or come in early is not conducive to getting their best thinking). If lunch time is selected, make it your treat. You'll see the difference this one change will make in people's attitudes.
2. Give advance notice of both the date and the agenda of staff meetings rather than catch people off-guard and unprepared. Encourage staff members to add appropriate topics of their own.
3. Rotate the leadership of the meeting among everyone in the practice -- on a volunteer basis. Make it a leadership opportunity, not an obligation.
4. Stick to the agenda. If a real give-and-take discussion is the goal, then the meeting leader should make short statements, not speeches. Pass over minor points. Encourage participation. Avoid negativity. At staff meetings held by Dr. Jan Wolf, of Kenosha, Wis., participants used "clickers" to signal someone who was being unnecessarily negative, long-winded or otherwise out-of-order. It kept the discussion positive and on-target.
5. Remember: Don't allow staff meetings to become gripe sessions.
6. Whenever possible, implement changes in office policies and procedures by consensus. People tend to be more supportive of decisions in which they have some input. And they're more interested in seeing a successful outcome than they are of decisions made by others and passed along to them to implement.
7. Set a time limit and stick to it. If necessary, schedule another staff meeting. It's better to quit on a high note than to have people looking at their watches, waiting for the meeting to end.
8. If you're the leader, spend more time listening than talking.
9. Hold some meetings without the doctor(s). They often inhibit the proceedings.
10. Have everyone bring at least one idea to improve office décor or appointment scheduling, etc.
11. Have everyone bring at least one idea to save time or money or needed office space.
12. Award prizes for the best such ideas.
13. Make it a practice to call on people who appear interested and attentive, to get the discussion under way -- rather than those who avoid eye contact and indicate little interest in participating.
14. Invite outside speakers such as allied healthcare professionals, management consultants or even patients to address the group.
15. Show a video tape for in-service training or inspiration.
16. Go for a positive approach. There's a world of difference between "How can we work better as team?" and "Why is there so much friction in our office?"
17. Always conclude meetings with one or more decisions. Don't leave everyone wondering, What did we decide? Where do we go next? Make sure a plan of action is spelled out along with a schedule of implementation.
18. Close staff meetings with an idea from the office of Dr. Jim Lanier of Jacksonville: "Each staff member compliments another who has helped make his or her job easier during the past month. This includes the doctors, office manager and all staff positions."
Play it by ear
These tips should make staff meetings easier to bear for both you and your staff. Just remember to schedule meetings as often as they are needed and continue to be productive.
Optometric Management, Issue: May 2005