Q: The staff meetings that we have every week are horrible. They are a waste of time and we would all rather be out in the barns getting something done. How can we help our boss improve meetings?

A: Staff meetings can be a valuable management tool if they are efficient, effective and productive. Of course, even with the best intentions, meetings may not always meet the participants’ needs or expectations.

Here are a few hints to pass along to your boss to help make those meetings more useful.

  • Hold meetings on a consistent schedule. It may take some time to find the best day and time, but consistency helps people plan and use their overall time effectively.
  • Have a consistent agenda. This helps everyone know what comes next and when they will have a chance to talk. Of course, sometimes you’ll need to add new items.
  • Each production area should report its “VIP.” This stands for victories, impending events and problems. This allows for discussion of recent successes, upcoming issues and current challenges.
  • Stay focused. Don’t let people go off track. Follow the agenda and stay on topic.
  • Use facts, not opinions, to drive your analysis and your decision-making process.
  • Make sure everyone has a chance to speak.
  • The meeting’s leader should spend as much time listening as he or she does talking.
  • Share responsibility for leading the meeting discussion. That means calling on people or assigning discussion tasks ahead of time.
  • Focus on solving the problems rather than figuring out who is to blame.
  • Set your own “ground rules” for meetings. These could include: only one person speaks at a time; anyone can say “It’s time to move on…;” no sarcastic remarks; no personal attacks;” and so forth.
  • End meetings with a summary of the items discussed, the decisions made, actions to take, what each person must do before the next meeting and reporting protocols.

Be sure to end meetings with positive comments, praise for good work and a recap of recent successes in the operation.

For a complete outline on how to have meetings and a list of sample ground rules, e-mail don@dontyler.com .

If you have questions for Dear Boss, send them to:

Don Tyler, P.O. Box 67, Stockwell, IN47983or e-mail to don@dontyler.com.

Your letter will remain confidential, and may or may not get an individual reply.