10 tips for making one of the best venues for team-building better

by Burl Stamp

“Another meeting?!”

It’s a frustration we hear often, especially in health care provider organizations. And for good reason. Meetings are often held for the wrong reasons, are poorly planned and can be just plain boring.

But when they are inclusive, open and well-planned, department staff meetings can be one of the most powerful places to cultivate teamwork and trust across and with a team. Like so many long-standing, accepted management practices, the magic and key to success is in the how and why we deploy them.

First, if managers believe that the primary purpose of a team meeting is to share information, they will likely continue to be disappointed in the lukewarm reception they get from their staff. Too many department meetings consist of 55 minutes of standard reports, recitation of new policies and operational updates – followed by five minutes of, “Do you have any questions?” All of this one-way communication sucks the very life out of meetings and discourages most staff members from speaking up.

If your goals are to improve staff engagement, teamwork and overall performance, here are 10 tips to make team meetings more meaningful.

#10 – Help them come prepared.

Effective meetings don’t just happen without a little planning. They follow a thoughtful agenda that is sent to team members a few days ahead of time so they know what to expect and can come prepared with ideas or questions on key issues.

#9 – And help them leave energized.

Record key ideas, decisions and next steps so that discussion feels more purposeful and action-oriented. This document can be shared with the entire team so that those who couldn’t attend stay informed of important shared information.

#8 – Facilitate, don’t dictate.

An effective meeting is about facilitated discussion, not staged presentation. Part of effective facilitation is making sure everyone has the opportunity to contribute and that one or two strong individuals don’t dominate discussion.

healthcare team development

#7 – Invite senior leaders to join you – occasionally.

Leader rounding and organization-wide town hall meetings are great. But if leaders really want to hear from individual teams, there is no better venue than their staff meeting. Connected senior leadership teams divvy up responsibility for attending each department meeting for 20-30 minutes at least once a year.

#6 – Always share and discuss key goals and priorities.

Simply posting quality metrics and patient experience results isn’t enough. Successful teams share and discuss results on a monthly basis, giving the team the opportunity to celebrate success – and course-correct together when results fall short of targets.

#5 – Break bread together.

This suggestion may sound trivial, but there is something about sharing treats that brings people together. No big catering budget required; it can be as simple as stocking a basket with favorite candies and chocolates or assigning responsibility for baking to celebrate that month’s birthdays.

#4 – Allow – even encourage – healthy, respectful venting.

Pretending that staff members don’t get frustrated is naive. If you don’t give them a safe place to express concerns and issues, they’ll usually go underground and vent unproductively to each other.

#3 – Use discussion at staff meetings to spur performance improvement.

Research confirms that having a say in how important work gets done is a major satisfier for employees. Including operational issues on the agenda that are good candidates for improvement is a great way to get the entire team involved in early brainstorming and discussion.

#2 – Spotlight great work by individual team members.

Smart managers allow talented team members to share responsibility for making team meetings successful. Reports from performance improvement teams and updates on key initiatives that are being driven by team members should be spotlighted during staff meetings.

#1 – Strive for a 50/50 communication ratio.

That means that at least as much time is devoted to staff members sharing ideas and questions as to the manager sharing information. Of all our tips, this simple ratio makes the biggest difference in energizing staff meetings and helping employees embrace initiatives that will make the team most successful.

Staff meetings can and should be gatherings where employees come together to share ideas and support one another — rather than staid, mandatory events that they reluctantly attend. By shifting their mindset, successful managers invigorate team meetings as a foundational component to building teamwork and trust.