With more and more high-tech ways in which to communicate, some business owners are wondering whether face-to-face staff meetings are worth their time and energy. After all, can’t a text, e-chat or email accomplish the same thing in less time?
The Value of Face-to-Face Meetings
The fact is that many specific actions can be accomplished through digital interactions, but at the end of the day, voice-to-voice and face-to-face meetings will accelerate your business faster than purely digital interactions. This is because:
1. We Are Human
While technology continues to develop at lightning speeds, human beings are still wired to connect with each other personally. When we fail to provide human interaction, especially face-to-face when possible, we fail to enable our employees to connect with each other on a primal, critical level. Remember that up to 80% of communication is non-verbal, including posture and tone of voice. Even if all of your meetings are via phone, you will be better off than if they are all via email.
2. Creativity Needs Space
While digital communication spurs action, meetings foster spontaneous, non-task-oriented communication, which is where creativity thrives. While I’m not advocating unstructured meetings, I do recommend planning creative space in every meeting for casual conversation about problems and opportunities facing the company.
3. Trust is Essential
Companies can only grow quickly if there is a high level of trust between you and your employees, team members, and departments. Meetings build trust and understanding and can speed up interactions and problem-solving. By observing each other, and you, in meetings, employees learn to trust each other and believe in the company’s direction and potential.
4. A Culture of Execution
Well-managed staff meetings communicate clearly to your employees that you are in control and that they can trust that the company is efficiently managed. Being able to hold yourself to executing regular disciplined meetings is the foundation of building a culture of execution among your employees.
Meetings are the main place where you establish your leadership in the company. This is your opportunity to show your employees that you know how to manage your company, yourself, and them. Don’t hide behind managers and delegate the responsibility of your meetings to others, because they are the No. 1 way for you to build your leadership profile.
First Steps to Remove Wasted Time from Staff Meetings
Of course, the problem is that many meetings are run inefficiently. This means that meetings get a bad rap. But don’t blame the method, blame its execution. You can harness the power of meetings to increase efficiency and productivity and help propel your company forward.
I recommend a weekly staff meeting and weekly individual department meetings. As the business owner, you need to set the schedule and keep everyone on track. I work with my clients to help them schedule their meetings so they can see that just a few hours per week are all they need to manage their team.
Here is one structure I sent a client:
Immutable Laws of Ensuring Meetings are not a Waste of Time
But I can hear you groaning already. You have probably tried to have meetings, but they always run over, or are unproductive, or waste time. Here are the immutable laws of making sure your meetings aren’t a waste of time:
Set a regular day and time for every meeting, and stick to it. Don’t reschedule for at least the first three months to establish consistency. After that, only reschedule when absolutely necessary. Your employees need to be able to trust that when you say something will happen, it does.
Create a regular agenda for your meetings. This may be based on departmental updates, specific tasks to be completed, market groups, or anything else that makes sense. Make sure your agenda is simple. When in doubt, use these three simple questions: 1) what’s working?; 2) what’s not working?; 3) what should we do about it?
Part of the problem with meetings is that they lose structure and get messy and unproductive. When you are establishing a new meeting system, it is critical that you manage the time carefully. Let people know when a topic needs to be discussed at a later time, or if you need to move on to keep everyone on schedule. You will get push-back, but it is the only way to make sure your meetings continue over the long-term.
Ideally, your meetings will solidify some tasks to be completed by specific people. Assign a system for tracking follow-up on actions. A simple list on the whiteboard or on GoogleDocs can accomplish this task. Just make sure that the next time you meet, you are able to review assignments and hold team-members accountable for following through on their commitments.
It’s important that you know that if you structure and control your meetings, you will limit your total management time significantly. One 20-minute meeting per week can set the stage for an entire team, rather than you needing to jump in at random intervals to set the course and adjust activities.
I know this sounds like a lot of work, and it is for the first few months. You need to retrain yourself and your employees to behave in a disciplined manner. But the benefits are huge. I have seen meeting structures transform teams and organizations. One client doubled revenue in just one month of regular weekly meetings.