Undercurrents in the workplace are conspiring against face-to-face staff meetings. Organizations seem to hold fewer of them, due to time constraints or a preference for the expediency of electronic communication. A growing generation of high school and college grads are entering the workforce with finely-honed texting and screen-time skills, but less experience in face-to-face interaction. In addition, corporate “soft-skills” training programs in management development and organizational communications have been waylaid by reduced budgets.
Despite this gloomy scenario, face-to-face meetings will never become extinct. So here’s a quick guide to help younger employees and/or those new to the workforce effectively participate in (and eventually conduct) productive staff meetings.
- Know the reason for the meeting BEFORE you attend; if this info isn’t available, ask the meeting leader to clarify the meeting’s purpose. It’s a waste of peoples’ valuable time if they’re not told the reason for the meeting. The only exception is a special meeting called by senior managers to share sensitive information that they’re unable to let employees know about in advance.
- It’s OK to ask: “What is supposed to happen as a result of this meeting?” For example, is the meeting’s purpose to make a decision? Or clarify issues and concerns as input for decision-making? Asking questions in meetings can be a great strategy to clarify information, probe deeper into issues, and demonstrate that you’ve been listening – as long as you’re not asking questions just for the sake of asking questions. However, if you’re confused about the discussion, it’s better to speak up than to sit quietly and give the impression you understand when you don’t have a clue. In most cases, if you have a question, so might other people … and they’ll appreciate that you spoke up about it.
- Be prepared to participate – know whether your role is to provide information, present issues/concerns, exchange ideas, and/or listen so you can take the meeting’s information back to your fellow employees. The more you know what is expected of you, the better you can prepare and contribute to a productive and efficient meeting.
- Be respectful of everyone’s time; save any small talk during the meeting for the break room or coffee machine. There may be chit chat at the beginning of the meeting while the group warms up, but continuing it during the meeting only wastes time and annoys co-workers (not to mention the meeting leader).
- It’s good to ask: “What follow up is needed? Who will do what … when?” The answers should confirm and reinforce any follow up that’s expected of you and others. Whenever possible, you want to avoid saying, “I didn’t know I was supposed to do [fill-in-the-blank] after the meeting!”
- It’s also good to ask: “What, if any, information from this meeting needs to be shared and with whom?” This response should help ensure communication is passed along to others in the company. It will also prevent you from making the major mistake of sharing sensitive or confidential information not meant to be shared.
Besides knowing what to say and do in a staff meeting, it’s helpful to know what NOT to say and do. I’ll cover that in my next post.