Energize your next staff meeting

Staff meetings can serve as a lively exchange of ideas and information or an exercise in tedium. It’s up to you.

Remember the basics for running tight meetings: Start on time, set a clear agenda and stay focused. But you also need to enliven the proceedings. Here’s how:

Use “quick polls” to gather input.

Formal employee surveys have their place, but a better way to collect feedback is to pose a multiple-choice question at a meeting and take a vote. Example: Ask the group, “What motivates you the most?” Provide four answers such as, “a written note of thanks,” “public praise from me or other executives,” “the chance to earn gift certificates for superior work” or “influencing management decisions.” Stage role-plays. Engage everyone in role-plays such as simulating a phone conversation with a customer. Follow each five-minute role-play with a discussion.

Give assignments.

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A few days before the meeting, ask attendees to prepare to share their experience as they relate to a key issue. Their comments can serve as a kickoff for a vigorous give-and-take.

Open with a challenge.

Begin by posing a problem that the group needs to solve or a business phenomenon that “just doesn’t make sense.” Share background data and then let break-out teams collaborate for 10 minutes. Reconvene and compare notes. These cerebral exercises not only educate your employees about your business but also spark fresh ideas.

Play the “hour game.”

Smart managers use staff meetings to get a better sense of their employees’ perspectives. To step into their world, pick an hour in the recent past (say, 3 to 4 p.m. yesterday) and ask the group to describe how their work went during that hour. Encourage them to highlight what went right and wrong–and what they learned.