Effective staff management: Using a creative meeting format that makes your whole team more productive, inspired and engaged

by By Meg Oliver, CVPM

11 min read

Effective staff management can be a little daunting at times. Let’s face it, the term is often associated with negative situations like HR issues, coworker conflict and a myriad of other unpleasant discussions and concerns.

However, staff management does not need to have a negative association. In fact, effective staff management drives good ideas and positive outcomes. So how do you build a productive and invested team? How can you help them “buy in” to your goals for your clinic? I achieved this in my practice when I handed over the task of facilitating team meetings to individual team members.

[bctt tweet=”How do you boost team effectiveness, productivity and buy-in? Try handing over the facilitation of team meetings to individual team members.”]

Effective staff management = Leading your team to lead their own meetings

So how does this work?  Every other week, each member of the team takes a turn leading the meeting with my supervision. The meeting leader follows an established, interactive format. They discuss policies, scheduling concerns, positive occurrences in their week and a few other topics.

How to keep meetings positive and productive: all problems must have solutions

One of the primary concerns I hear from managers about allowing their team to run meetings is that sometimes they complain and focus on the negative. Let’s address how to deal with that right away. Nobody wants a “gripe session” as there is nothing productive or beneficial to be gained from it.

If this is what starts to happen in a meeting, you need to immediately step in and make sure the rules are clear and set the tone. To prevent this from happening in our meetings, I instituted a rule stating that if you have anything negative to bring up, (whether it’s a concern with policy, protocol or the way something was handled) you must bring a solution to the table. There are always negative things to discuss and it is very important to acknowledge and address a problem or concern. But in order to prevent it from becoming nothing but a blame-shifting discussion, it has to end on the upswing. We have to learn from it as a team, whether it was something that could have been done differently or a mistake. Let your team pick it apart productively and see what they come up with.

By requiring staff members to bring a solution you’ll notice a big decrease in petty complaining and bickering. People tend to “pick their battles” when they know a discussion is going to come of their issue. We certainly don’t want team members to avoid bringing up important concerns, but we also don’t want to hear a complaint about every little thing that upsets them on a daily basis. The “problem and solution” approach helps focus attention on those concerns that truly matter.

Meeting preparation is essential

Once you implement this, your staff will have no option but to prepare for a meeting. In order to be ready to lead and participate, they must actively participate in setting expectations and goals. This is a great way for your team to become more progressive and continue to evolve. I also recommend asking the meeting leader for that week to find a piece of continuing education or an article with a new idea about something that can be done better. You’ll be amazed at what your team can come up with if you give them the resources and let them brainstorm.

Number one benefit: improved communication!

This meeting format is also an excellent way to improve communication and understanding amongst your team members. One of the reasons that I first chose to give this style a try was because I had communication and personality conflict problems amongst my receptionists. I felt that the only way we could resolve this issue was to force them to communicate with each other, in order to help them learn how they each communicate differently. The experience of leading meetings helped them learn more about—and better appreciate— each other’s personalities and strengths and stopped them from focusing solely on each other’s weaknesses. Don’t get me wrong, they were a good team, but we all know that reception takes the brunt of difficult situations like angry clients and that can bring them down. This can lead to unhappiness and we know how that spreads.

These days they have become a wonderful team and are constantly finding ways that we can improve. They’ve come up with so many good suggestions that sometimes I can’t keep up with them! After achieving success with building the reception team, we’ve implemented the same meeting style with the other departments.

[bctt tweet=”Effective staff management = Being in the trenches and providing tools for team success”]

I strongly believe that a manager needs to be involved in every single aspect of the hospital every single day.  If you’re not, how are you going to understand all of the issues that your teams face on a daily basis? Your team members are the ones doing the job, completing the tasks and following the protocols. Their input and ideas are invaluable and they should be tapped as resources. Your team will often have a much better idea on how to fix a protocol or issue than you might. Listen to them, give them tools and resources, then watch their creativity thrive.

So, what have you got to lose? Hold a staff meeting and explain what you plan to do and why. Show them the format you’d like to use, get buy-in and clarify your expectations so that everyone is on the same page. Expect them to initially panic and grumble because this means thinking about things to bring up and also being proactive instead of passively sitting in a meeting led by management. A lot of people don’t like change, and even more people don’t like to be in the spotlight of leadership. BUT they’ll learn. They’ll muddle through it for a while, then they’ll get excited about it. Ultimately, they’ll bond as a team and be proud of their teamwork. From there on out, it’s gold!

Meg Oliver, CVPM is the practice manager at a three-doctor, small animal and exotics practice in Syracuse, New York. She can be reached at [email protected].

Meg Oliver, CVPM

Meg Oliver, CVPM

Meg Oliver, CVPM is a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager at Cicero Animal Clinic, P.C. in Syracuse, NY. She is also a finalist in the Practice Manager of the Year Contest. Over the past 20 years, Meg has worked in many aspects of the veterinary industry, in both Syracuse and Buffalo. Working her way up from receptionist to Practice Manager in various clinics has given her the experience and insight to understand the internal workings of a successful practice. Meg is passionate about preventive care, customer service, and financial management and focuses her energies on these areas. Meg and her husband Rob share their life with their daughter Faye and identical twin sons, Jimmy and Toby.

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