I chair a monthly staff meeting in our office but people often attend sporadically, arrive late and participation is nominal. It’s very frustrating – what can I do to improve these meetings?
Your lament is a common one: employees are required to attend various meetings and, in many cases, they register their lack of interest or motivation through the kinds of behavior you have observed.
There are really two dimensions to your query. On one hand, there is the problem of the meeting structure – which may include accountability and discipline – but, on the other hand, it may be productive to consider whether these meetings are needed at all.
As chair, you are responsible for setting the agenda, the tone of the meeting, minutes, notification and follow up on any action items.
I would suspect that many of the meetings flounder because there is no vision and attendees don’t see any value in being present: few decisions are made and items drag on from month to month without resolution.
At the earliest opportunity, review the minutes from the last three or four meetings. You may be shocked to realize that little has been accomplished.
You can take some immediate steps to address the situation. First, consult with staff to determine if the current day and time for the meetings are the most convenient.
Second, distribute the agenda in plenty of time and allow suggestions: be careful not to censor and encourage an open dialogue, where appropriate.
Third, the meetings should be welcoming. Consider serving light refreshments or holding the occasional meeting at a nearby restaurant over breakfast or lunch, if there is the budget available.
As chair, announce at the start of the meeting when it will end and allocate times for each agenda item. Solicit comments from attendees by addressing them by name and avoid giving your views until the discussion seems to have concluded: seek to build consensus.
You may also wish to address the more foundational question of whether these meetings are required. Speak with your supervisor and be candid with your concerns.
Unproductive meetings can destroy morale and stifle productivity. As Chair, you need to address the matter as soon as possible and be willing to take leadership by improving the culture of the meetings or making a case for their elimination.