view from the top: Stepping Up Staff Meetings

Disappointed with staff meetings? Try these fresh tactics to liven things up.

view from the top
Stepping Up Staff Meetings

Disappointed with staff meetings? Try these fresh tactics to liven things up.
Gary Gerber, O.D.

Oh no -- not another article on staff meetings! Not on conventional meetings, no. But you can use simple, unconventional techniques to make your staff meetings much more productive and valuable.

Remember that patient complaint you talked about at your last staff meeting? You discussed what happened, why it happened and how to avoid it in the future.

"Had we called her insurance company in advance, we could've avoided that entire issue," you say to your staff.

"I'm not so sure it was that as much as not having her glasses ready when we said they'd be," your optician chimes in.

"No, it wasn't that at all," your receptionist remarks. "Her real complaint was that she wanted to make an appointment for herself and for her husband, but we only had room for one patient."

Invite who to staff meetings?

So who's right? Who dropped the ball? What do you need to address and to which topic should you give priority? Go directly to the source and do what some of my clients do -- invite patients to your staff meetings. Get input directly from patients who've either had problems or have given you praise and learn from what you do well and not so well. Let patients know that you value their input and hope they can teach you how to improve your service. After all, who better than your patients to tell you how to further develop your practice?

Collaboration = cooperation

Meetings should be well-planned events. This means that you should present a legible, logical agenda to your staff before each meeting. E-mail or distribute a CD of the agenda to each staff member, and invite them to record their thoughts on the agenda using editing, tracking and version features, which you'll find on most word processing software, so everyone knows the others' thoughts before the meeting occurs. This leads to increased involvement from your team and better follow-through with each agenda item.

One of my clients gives each of his staff members a PDA to use during the meeting. By using the beaming feature, the real-time collaboration adds even more success to the agenda topics.

Change the environment

Every so often, hold your staff meeting outside of the office. Consider a local restaurant, a meeting room at your town library or a weekend retreat at a resort. I've arranged several of these meetings for clients and without exception, have noticed that the unfamiliar surroundings served to generate unusual practice building strategies and solutions.

Bring in outside experts

I also arranged for a manager from a five-star hotel to attend one of my client's staff meetings. He spoke about customer service philosophies that he uses at his hotel. After the meeting, I asked the staff how they could adapt the manager's ideas to serve the practice's patients. Helping my clients get views from experts outside of optometry -- and advancing these concepts into the flow of my clients' practices -- makes these meetings quite memorable.

Dreading your next staff meeting? If so, examine what you've been doing and use some of these strategies to liven them up and make them more productive.