Loathe team meetings?

Loathe team meetings?

Hate is a strong word, but many employees truly do detest their staff-wide sit-downs. Why? Nothing gets accomplished, they're petty, and they're downright boring. It's time for a change of heart. Make it happen by following these five tips for adding purpose to your meetings.
Dec 01, 2008

Brian Conrad, CVPM
Done well, team meetings energize and bond the entire staff and serve as a forum for discussing and establishing plans to improve your practice's client and patient care. Done poorly, team meetings turn into boring complaint sessions that waste staff members' time and the practice's money. If the second description sounds familiar, it's time to reevaluate and change the way your team gets together.

Believe me, I know. About six years ago, the staff meetings at Meadow Hills Veterinary Center where I manage were so dull and unproductive that I was ready to completely give up on them. But we pushed through, and now we hold excellent team meetings every month. How'd we do it? We made some changes. The first was to structure our gatherings based on the five w's. Here's what we did—and what you can do to make your meetings meaningful.

1. Why

To begin with, you and your managerial team need to buy into the idea that team meetings are important. And they are. When our monthly gatherings weren't going well, our client service suffered, team morale was low, and miscommunication was rampant. Too many team members were of the mind certain aspects of the practice didn't pertain to them unless they were directly involved. But that's all changed now.

2. What

The first goal for our managerial team was to focus on what we wanted to accomplish during each session. A week before every meeting, we spent a little time establishing objectives. Following are examples of what we often establish as the purpose for our gatherings. These desired outcomes provided a groundwork for creating a timeline that we'd use to run the meetings.

In-clinic CE. Staff training plays a vital role to our success here at Meadow Hills, so we devote 30 minutes of each meeting to education. Veterinarians, senior staff members, or pharmaceutical representatives present about medical topics, pharmaceutical supplies, client service, or other business-related subjects. The only criteria for the training is that the information be relevant to our entire team. For example, not every member of our staff needs to know whether a specific antibiotic crosses the blood-brain barrier, but each team member does need to know whether a medication needs to be refrigerated or given on a full stomach.

If you schedule a company representative to make a presentation, take time to meet with him or her in advance to discuss what will be covered. Make sure the information is pertinent, will challenge the entire audience, and be useful. Keep in mind that there's no sense in discussing a product at a team meeting if your hospital won't carry it.

Client service. We've taught each and every employee to live and breathe excellent client care. To drum up creative ideas for how we can best serve pet owners, we devote 10 or 15 minutes of every meeting to discussing this topic. During this time, team members share positive and negative examples of their own personal customer-service experiences with other businesses. We talk about how their encounters relate to our veterinary clinic, talking about how to implement similar strategies—or avoid them. These first-person examples increase the team members' desire to improve and exceed expectations.

Team building. Change the pace every now and then to encourage your team members to bond and enjoy themselves. Each quarter, we dedicate one hour-long meeting to a team-building activity. This provides our staff with a chance to do something different, get to know each other, and learn to work with each other better. For ideas about fun and fruitful exercises to do during your meetings, read "How to Go From Bland to Brilliant."