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Leadership – Communication – Why I love meetings?

If you told me a few years that one of my favourite days of the week will be Wednesday, the day I have meetings back to back from 9.30am to 4pm, I would have said you were crazy.

It begins with a marketing meeting, a mentoring meeting with a staff member, a group meeting with other business owners and then 3 Branch management meetings in a row.

Why do I love it so much?

Because it’s where we debate ideas and ultimately make better decisions as a group together.

After reading Patrick Lencioni’s book, Five Dysfunctions of a team, my approach to meetings has changed.  My aim is to encourage debate, get people to talk and pluck out ideas.  Ultimately, to make great decisions together.

This was really emphasized at the beginning and throughout of the COVID pandemic.  We had daily all-hands meetings to decide what to do for the next day, next week and in the medium term.  Although we could not action every idea, at least everyone had a say.  As a result, there was strong buy-in from all the staff.  And as a huge upside, we came away a stronger team than at the start.

Meetings should be where you debate and make decisions

Meetings should NOT be a tell and sell, where the leader just tells everyone what to do.  There is no buy-in, very little understanding of the problems because it is only seen from one perspective and as a result, really a waste of time.

Great meetings are a debate.  My favourite is when I put a problem on the table and then go around the table and ask for a perspective.  I don’t have to like their opinion, but I do have to listen to it.  Through this process, everyone is heard, and the ideas are brought to the table. We go around and around, change our minds, change the questions but ultimately come up with a better decision together.

In a recent example, we knew our screening and management women’s continence issues was just not good enough.  We brought the idea to the table.  The debate moved from researching graded, progressive exercises to specific booked sessions with female only staff.  In the end, the answer was so simple.

Ask all women about continence issues during their first assessment, no matter the gender of the staff member.  Then, if it is a problem, refer onto a specialist in the area, who will give us the information we need to add specific exercises into the patient’s program.  It’s a simple, elegant and thoughtful solution, as a result of debate and discussion.

The regular routine of meetings is important for communication

In every organization, no matter how big or small, the biggest problem expressed by employees is a lack of communication.  Having a regular routine of meetings is one step closer to reducing this problem.

Every morning, at our head branch in Kew East, we have a morning huddle.  We very briefly all talk about our priorities of the day and what we need help with.  We also discuss any specific information everyone needs to know for the day.  As a result, we feel like we get the “most” from the day.

This is in contrast to one of our other branches, which hasn’t established this routine as yet.  The lack of morning meeting means that messages are missed.  Staff don’t feel like they have time to work on their projects.  Because they haven’t expressed in the morning that they need time to work on particular projects, other staff just don’t know and appropriate time isn’t allocated.  The result is unnecessary frustration and unproductive work.  We are now working to change this into the future.

Meetings are where you build trust

You can’t build trust amoungst staff if they don’t talk and meet with each other.  We do use personality testing to get to know the preferences and styles of all the staff.  As an outcome, we have a better idea of people’s perspectives and why they behave the way they do.  It means we have more respect for people’s unique opinions and understanding of where they are coming from.

This understanding builds trust and debate is freer and more open.  When there is trust, people are much more likely to be open with idea, buy-in to decisions and take action outside of the meeting to get a result.

However, you need a culture of openness and acceptance if you want staff to be vulnerable and share their ideas.  This also means that you as a leader must be vulnerable.  You must be prepared to be wrong, change your mind if there are better ideas than yours.  And be thankful when people express their opinions, even if they are not something you always want to hear.

This approach has had a transformative effect on our organization, with better, faster decision making.  There is more buy-in and “things get done” as a result of more meetings.

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