Dear New Shrink,

I was recently promoted into a management position within my corporation. This is a new opportunity for me, but I feel a little unprepared for this new venture. Part of my new responsibilities include running staff meetings with a staff of 20 professionals. My team represents administrative staff, technical specialists, finance, and operations. With such a wide variety of staff, I need some advice on running effective meetings. Are there any tricks or techniques that will help?

Sincerely,

Recently Promoted

Dear Recently Promoted,

First off, congratulations on your recent promotion; this is a great symbol of your hard work and dedication to the company. Upper management must believe in you and your abilities to take on this challenge. However, you are wise to prepare ahead of time; starting out on the right foot will show others that they made the right decision in promoting you.

There are several different philosophies on meetings. A lot has to do with the culture of your organization and the style of the individual manager. No matter what advice you get, I would encourage you to think about what style or approach will be most comfortable to you. Feeling as though you have to put on an act or follow some pre-determined guidelines will only be exhausting and difficult to maintain over the long term. Use your own personal strengths to maximize meeting time and communication with your staff.

Before you schedule a meeting, consider not having a meeting. Can the information be distributed through a memo or e-mail? Examining this should help reduce unneeded meetings and ineffective use of staff time and resources, two things you’ll have to pay close attention to as a manager. One way to distinguish whether a meeting is needed is to consider the method of communication. If your news focuses on one-way communication, meaning that you need to inform staff of something, a memo or e-mail may work best. However, if the topic requires discussion or two-way communication, holding a meeting may most effectively meet your objective. Ultimately, by only holding meetings when they are truly necessary your staff will know upfront that meetings are important.

Before you get too excited about scheduling your first meeting, you need to know what your goals are. What do you hope to accomplish during the meeting? Break your answer down into specific and tangible outcomes. For instance, your goal for a particular meeting might be to educate employees on a new corporate policy, to answer specific questions about this policy, and to have employees sign a form indicating their understanding of the new policy. You have now established a meeting with a focused intention and concrete goals.

After determining the purpose and the goals of your meeting you can begin drafting the agenda. Having a clear path set out ahead of time will help you to manage staff expectations while ensuring that you run in the meeting in an organized and efficient manner. If possible, send the agenda to staff ahead of time so they can review the topics and prepare accordingly.

Although you are the leader of your department, you do not have to be the only one who runs the meetings. Delegating responsibilities to others on your team can be a great way of building team ownership over staff meetings. If an agenda topic requires input from other staff members, consider having them prepare the materials for the meeting or lead the discussion on that particular topic. You may also choose to have employees submit topics for the agenda. Rather than asking for updates at the beginning or end of the meeting, your staff will feel as though they are valued contributors. Effectively involving others in the planning of the meeting should reduce off-topic discussions allowing you to stay on track. This method will need to be carefully outlined and managed, so again your own personal leadership style needs to dictate your approach.

Finally, end the meeting with a recap of what was discussed, focusing specifically on action items. Detail out the next steps and ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of their individual responsibilities. During your first few meetings you may want to welcome process questions. First frame the approach to your staff members and note that responses must come in the form of action statements. For example “ideas should be to the point” as opposed to “she talks too much” Asking the team about what worked well or what type of meetings works best for them will again allow them each to feel invested in the process and will also allow you to gain more insight into their underlying thoughts on meetings. Good luck, you will do great!

KATRINA DAVY is a professional career counselor who has worked in university and private settings. She holds degrees from Cornell and Columbia universities. Send your questions to newshrink@gmail.com. All questions are kept anonymous; let us help you with your life matters!