Newsletter - Fall 2014

How to run an efficient and effective staff meeting
By Tony Retrosi

Fall 2014 Newsletter
They can be long, boring and potentially make you late for your next appointment or make you rush to finish before practice starts. “It” is the dreaded staff meeting – that gathering of co-workers designed to check in, catch up, and talk about that annoying parent of a level 4.

We all know that staff meetings are crucial to make sure everyone is on the same page, plan season and lesson plans and sometimes do damage control. The problems for gym owners/managers is that there are many groups you need to meet with:

  • Office staff and managers
  • Preschool and School age teachers
  • Team Coaches
Each of these groups is important BUT how do you simply fit it all in? There is no easy answer but it is possible to keep the meeting moving with fewer annoyances and more productivity.

Here are twelve tips to do so:

  1. Start and end on time. This is probably the single biggest thing you can do to make staff meetings more bearable. Respect others’ time and don’t let the meeting drag on too long. Participants will be less resistant if they know that the meeting will end promptly.

  2. Publish an agenda – and stick to it. Solicit discussion items from participants and publish the agenda at least a day or two in advance. You can even assign a time limit to each item to ensure that the discussion doesn’t focus on one topic for too long. If agenda items aren’t covered by the meeting’s end time, let people resubmit them for inclusion on the next meeting agenda instead of just carrying them over.

  3. Make a connection with everyone in the room. Some people have a habit of starting meetings by reading the agenda. Everyone else tilts their heads down to follow along, not making eye contact and certainly not connecting. The point of meeting face-to-face is to, well, meet face-to-face.

  4. Set the mood. Set an example from the start. If you want energy and engagement from your team, you need to embody those qualities while they walk through the doors. Let everyone know this is going to be a FOCUSED and energetic meeting.

    I want people to be productively paranoid. I want all my staff looking at ways to improve enrollment and cash-flow. Think of a company that failed or did not move on with the times, maybe a little bit more productive paranoia at their meetings in the past would have improved their present situation. I don’t want my staff to become complacent. Gymnastics is a dynamic sport and business. We need to change with the times or we will go the way of wooden balance beams!

    Don't let any negativity sway you from your positive attitude in a meeting. Stay focused. If you want employees to be friendly, upbeat and engaged, you have to be friendly, upbeat, and engaged. Lead with your body language and tone.

  5. Assign a facilitator. Let someone new host the meeting each time. I know when I ALWAYS lead the staff meetings, people started to zone out - my style was always the same. By assigning someone new, this person will be responsible for starting the meeting, making sure everyone sticks to the agenda items, and wrapping it up on time. Set the expectation that everybody will have something to do and add. Nobody gets to be a passenger.

  6. Tap creativity. Take the pressure off and have a little fun. Do something silly. Bring in crayons and the coloring sheets that you handed out in class!

  7. Mix it up. Sometimes you need to switch up the agenda. Prioritize. You may need to start with the third item or the last item on the list and then continue to reorder the items until you are done. This will require everyone to be paying attention. They can’t drift off until the agenda item they want to discuss is brought up. Just be sure that everyone has a chance to contribute to the conversation. You can do this by asking for specific feedback from people who are reluctant to participate. There are some times that I go around the table and make sure everyone chimes in.

  8. Celebrate. Be sure to recognize wins or successes.

  9. Leverage the wall space. Visuals matter. They also give you an excuse to get out of your chair. Put up a CHART of what you want people to be doing. Get out a dry-erase board and make people get up and write their ideas on the board. Our sport is about agility and movement, remember?

  10. Remind everyone of your greater mission. Don't get so focused on the minutia of a meeting that you forget to step back and see the big picture. Remind everyone they are working towards a higher purpose and not just clocking meeting minutes. What we do IN the gym is way more than just teaching gymnastics. How does this meeting fit into the overall vision? How will this help the GYM? Each program? Each individual? What can we do moving forward? You will get more engagement if everyone sees the bigger picture.

  11. Provide action steps. Before everyone scatters out to the gym for class or practice make sure they know their next action steps. Ask everyone what they are responsible for the next meeting, competition or class. This helps make sure everyone is on the same page and gives you an opportunity to listen and observe.

  12. Start where you began. Spend as much time thinking about how you want the meeting to end, not just how you want it to begin. Your closing remarks should focus on BIG PICTURE and mirror your opening remarks.