I get it. No one wants to attend them. Employees claim they have no time to meet. Leaders feel guilty holding meeting and struggle to get anyone to attend. Meetings are just “one more thing” for the burned out team to do.
STOP THE COMPLAINING! Meetings are mandatory because they are ESSENTIAL.
Why Meetings Need to Happen
Every veterinary employee is part of a team. In order to grow the team, get opinions and share ideas the team must meet together. This means meetings. Meetings help team members feel included. Meetings provide an opportunity for members to contribute to the success of the hospital by voicing their thoughts and opinions. In fact, the hospitals that are doing the best during the COVID-19 pandemic are those that continued to carve out time to have team meetings. Many even increased the number of meetings to ensure teams could voice concerns. In the midst of one of the world’s worst crisis, the veterinary teams that were doing the best were those that stayed grounded in the root of good leadership which included meeting with their teams.
Ensure They Are Mandatory
In most every other type of business meetings are mandatory. This includes human healthcare. Yet, in veterinary medicine meetings are often an anomaly. Team members feel like they don’t need to attend them and even become argumentative with their leadership about why meetings are a burden. Leadership caves and stops having meetings. Team members then complain they don’t feel included in decisions and say “leadership doesn’t listen to them.” The irony is ever present.
Ensure that taking part in meetings is in their written job description. For new hires, this needs to be discussed on day one, or even in the interview, how meeting participation is part of their performance evaluation. If your hospital has a culture of not having meetings or them being “optional” set a new policy and ignore the gripping.
With today’s modern technology, there is no reason why we cannot support team members on video chat. Do not allow team members to call in without the video feature. There is more accountability if you can see the employee, rather than just hear them. There are plenty of free platforms that offer such services, including Skype, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom. Yes, meetings are mandatory because you are part of a team. Veterinary medicine is not a solo sport.
Tips for a Successful Meeting
No more than one hour in length, preferably shorter.
Make sure that you adhere to the time so that employees can stay engaged the entire time. Anything longer than an hour becomes unproductive. And seriously, keep it exactly an hour if you say it will be an hour. Employees are watching every minute. At one hour, most employees check out. The fact is, the more frequently that you meet with your team, the shorter the meetings need to be.
Keep it small.
If you have various departments, then host monthly department meetings. Large meetings often end up with too much information being thrown at employees. They would rather have a small productive meeting. Small meetings allow for opinions, engagement, and productivity. Large “all-staff” meetings should be designed to connect departments and large teams together only a few times a year. It should not be a norm for every meeting to be an all-staff meeting. Shorter and smaller meetings are more productive.
Have the meeting place be friendly and welcoming.
Hosting it at the front desk while clients are trying to come in is not effective. A real meeting space ensures there are little to no distractions, comfortable chairs, and bright friendly lighting that is welcoming. Individuals should not be crammed into an inventory closet or huddled around the wet sink in the small treatment area. Ideally, find a nice comfortable, friendly place.
Shut Up & Listen to the Team
Instead of allowing team members to contribute and have a viewpoint, most meetings become a “talking-to” session. The host of the meeting (usually the manager) will talk-to the team rather than allow for any input. They will spend the time explaining all the issues and what new policies and procedures will start to be implemented to deal with the issues. For an hour or more the team listens, barely interjecting, while they are talked-to about this or that. It’s not about the manager. Instead, shut up and listen to the team. Ask them for ideas, their thoughts and feelings. Managers often forget they are part of the team and need to just be a team member at times.
Make sure there is a purpose.
Every meeting should have an agenda, and attendees should have access to it a week before the meeting. Email it to your team and ask for anything they would like to add to the meeting no less than a day before the meeting. There should be time for some open discussion. Each meeting should have a similar layout. Discuss anything new and pertinent to the team in the first 15 to 20 minutes. Review the areas of the hospital that may need further discussion for another 15 minutes. Finish up with an open forum. End on time.
Do not center the entire meeting around something negative.
If there needs to be something negative brought up, it needs to be in the beginning. No more than 15 minutes should be used for any negative topic. If it requires more conversation, develop a separate meeting focused on that one topic. Ensure the heavy topic is discussed for no more than one hour. Spending every meeting on nothing but negativity will cause employees to dread meetings and eventually stop going.
Stop with the boring pizza! Instead, try a potluck, breakfast foods, appetizers only, or make your own tacos. What about a bake-off where there is an anonymous taste testing and voting on the items? That’s a great team builder on top of a meeting. People eat the baked goods during the meeting, write down their votes, and the winner gets announced at the end.
#BeAUnicorn and hold meetings. This is how we grow our unicorn teams.