How to Run a Staff Meeting January 21 2013

staff-mtgOne of my favorite things in our Next Level Leadership® group coaching program is when the high potential participants come together in the fourth session to debrief each other on their Executive Shadow Days. Before they show up for a day of coaching on Organizational Presence, they spend a day shadowing a senior executive in their organization. During their shadow day they do whatever the executive does. They go to their meetings, sit in on their calls and attend their presentations. The debriefs are always full of interesting stories and insights.

In a recent session four debrief, I took a couple of pages of notes on executive best practices that our participants observed on their shadow days.  I’ll be writing a few posts on those notes in the weeks to come. Today’s topic is how to run a staff meeting.

When you’re a manager, staff meetings can be a tedious fact of life. Too often, they’re aimless, pointless and de-energizing.  Why? Because there’s often a lot of grand-standing, ass-covering and pontificating.

Here’s how one senior exec avoids all of that:

The conventional wisdom is that the senior exec should open the staff meeting with a review of the agenda and perhaps some remarks about priorities, what’s happened since the last meeting or a review of key metrics. The executive the high potential shadowed opened instead with the round robin of check-in’s from his direct reports. Each of them followed the same format. They:

  • Shared information others needed to know
  • Asked for information they needed to know
  • Gave status updates on key projects

My group coaching client was really impressed and asked the exec why he ran the meeting the way he did. His response (paraphrased here) was, “These people are good and are top of their issues. By having them go first, I’m able to respond to their issues rather than direct them. They don’t need to be directed anyway.”

Clearly, this exec believes that you can learn more by listening than by talking. He’s structured his staff meetings to leverage that philosophy.

What do you think? What difference would it make to run your staff meetings like this? What other advice do you have for running a good staff meeting? What are the pitfalls that should be avoided at all costs?

9 Responses to “How to Run a Staff Meeting”

  1. Paul Donehue says:

    I like this post, Scott, and strongly agree with the practice of listening first… we've also found, as I suspect you have, that regardless of structure, creating an effective meeting plan is the critical step. Studies I've seen report that barely half of all business or team meetings in the U.S. are productive. Maybe that's the genesis of the anonymous quote, "When I die I hope it's at a meeting!"

  2. Brian Kuhn says:

    Something I've done in the past few years is design meetings using cooperative small group structures. I use a book written by Laura Lipton and Bruce Wellman: Groups at Work – Strategies and Structures for Professional Learning. The intended context for this book is the education sector but I apply the strategies and structures to most of the meetings I run. Each is a 1-page well described plan, with procedure, materials req'd, and timing. This approach really engages meeting participants and gathers intellegence from the group for you to use to gather information, ideas, and input, to move forward, make decisions, formulate plans, next steps, etc.

  3. leshirst says:

    Listening is the universal trust-builder. We need to lear to start there!

  4. Mary K says:

    This sounds very similar to what I do. At the meetings I run, I always have an agenda (keeps everyone on track) and someone to take notes (and I have meeting minutes formulated as soon after the meeting as possible while everything is still fresh). The agenda items take up very little of the meeting and are generally the things my boss has passed down to me that everyone else needs for situational awareness.

    It's the roundtable where everyone has an opportunity to bring up things, either for passing information or requesting assistance, that we devote the most time to. It's important that I keep everyone on track when these issues come up and to crystallize everything.

    Members who are unable to attend know they will get a synopsis of the meeting in their inbox or discussed face-to-face if they are involved, and items are appropriately identified as action items with due dates and responsible parties.

    My staff members enjoy these meetings, believe it or not, because it's face time with action. We can generally get everything done in 20-30 minutes.

  5. Cynthia Charity says:

    I like this post. I recently received a email from a Regional that reported to me in my prior company and he made a statement that he was in a meeting with a group of old regionals that he used to work with in the past, that he is teamed back with. His comment, was that he saw such a big difference of attending a meeting where they ran it, they were looking at issues and opportunities with a strategic approach and how much farther they have come working in these environments vs. an environment of always being directed. You will be amazed when you empower your team to be the leaders they can be. This is a way to follow, to move forward, make strategic plans, and get results. The leaders that listen and answer their concerns vs directing all the time will see great success.

  6. ecdingler says:

    I like the format, very similar to our staff meetings. We have two differences. First, Each department follows questions worded to align with our core values. Reinforcing every meeting why and how e do what we do. Second, I don't run the meetings anymore. I listen better….also longer….when I don't have the opportunity to open my mouth. I have people on my team who are great at facilitating meetings…so I have them do it.

  7. Thanks for the article! It goes without saying that you should run efficient meetings. The cardinal sin of meetings is wasting people’s time. Of the original seven sins – Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride – it is sloth that is most relevant to the issue of bad meetings. Sloth is laziness, and in meetings it appears in many forms:

    - Not arriving on time to the meeting
    - Having no agenda or purpose
    - Long discussions about unimportant things
    - Making no decisions, reaching no conclusions
    - Ending meetings without summarising what was discussed
    - Not taking minutes, nobody will remember what the meeting was about
    - No action points, or anyone responsible for following up
    - Not ending the meeting on time
    - Booking a new meeting to waste even more time

    To run efficient meetings requires a mindset which is all about fighting laziness. And asking: “Do we really need a meeting at all?”

    I blog about this at

  8. Thanks for sharing the great ideas and perspectives everyone. Loving the benefits of your experience and creativity.

    Cheers –


  9. Sandy says:

    Great article, looking forward to follow up articles from these 'shadow day notes'. I like the idea of starting with the round robin, great way to avoid having people sitting through the whole meeting waiting to say hat is on their mind and not really participating.


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