Who loves staff meetings? Let’s just assume few hands are raised right now. That’s because for the most part, say MSPs and leadership experts, they’re not effective, efficient, or enjoyable.
It’s a problem, because Atlassian’s 2022 State of Teams report showed office-only workers meet up to five hours a week, while distributed and hybrid teams spend closer to eight hours. And higher amounts of time spent in meetings correlate to increased signs of burnout.
“If you find people in long, drawn-out meetings, chances are you’ve got a really drained staff and people are frustrated,” says Kyle Jones, COO at Atlanta-based management consulting firm ESS Group. “No one’s speaking up to the leaders in an adequate way, which means that there’s going to be some turnover.”
The Atlassian study suggests reevaluating how your teams meet.
MSP Success talked with MSPs who have just done that—and implemented changes with lasting positive impacts. They offer four pointers:
1. Know Your Purpose
Whether they’re weekly, daily, or ad hoc, all meetings should have a clear purpose, says Erica Martinez-Rose, CEO of Tech Rage IT, an MSP in Winter Springs, Florida. “From an executive level, I try to determine what it is I’m trying to tell the team that can’t be said in an email,” she says.
Leia Kupris Shilobod, CEO of CompliancyIT, a managed IT and compliance services provider in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, says she uses daily team huddles for “inspiration and aligning with core values.” They last six to 10 minutes, and attendees can expect transparent check-ins on how much capacity each team member has, and where there might be breakdowns in the system.
Scheduling time for sharing personal issues is also critical to team management, according to Seana Fippin, CEO of Red Box Business Solutions, an MSP in Brentwood, California. She makes it part of the regular staff check-in along with celebrating wins.
Shilobod saves personal talk for smaller weekly and one-on-one meetings. “You don’t have to share it with me unless it’s affecting your work. And now you’ve made it my business, and we have to figure out, how are we going to fix this,” Shilobod explains.
2. Have Unhidden Agendas
The way to ensure everyone shows up ready to fulfill a meeting’s purpose is to distribute an agenda ahead of time. That should happen when you schedule a meeting, says Danielle Jones, CEO of ESS Group. She says a complete agenda lists meeting topics, who should chime in on each topic, and how much time they have to do so. In addition, a well-planned agenda will keep you from inviting people to a meeting who don’t really need to be there.
Nearly everyone interviewed says calling a meeting without an agenda causes anxiety among staff who are left to wonder what’s going on.
And, by the way, the agenda-making should be a collaboration, says Kyle Jones. Get input from people expected to participate in or lead the meeting to make sure nothing important is left out.
3. Use A Blueprint
You’ll be most successful using a reliable system to help guide agenda creation and measure meeting effectiveness over time. Some MSPs use the Level 10 meeting structure from Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). Fippin suggests looking to professional networks or peers whose businesses you admire, while Kyle Jones says you can even start with good old Robert’s Rules of Order.
4. Gauge Success
After all your effort, the first measure of success is simply that everyone respects the meeting time blocked on the calendar, says Kyle Jones. (He also recommends scheduling buffer time between meetings so people can decompress. Atlassian suggests starting five minutes “late” for the same reason.)
Engagement is the next important sign of success. Martinez-Rose says past problems of inappropriate conversation or people scrolling their phones disappeared once leadership reset expectations about meeting structure.
Meetings To Love
So, seriously, who loves staff meetings? Fippin says her team does; it’s their favorite part of the work week. In fact, she credits her company’s “remarkable” employee retention rate in part to the way meetings are run.
“It’s the content, [and] the structure keeps us on budget, on agenda, right on time,” she says. “But more than anything, it’s the connection through celebrating a personal win, that recognition. And to me it’s the appreciation which is gold.”