Boring. Robotic. Unproductive.  A game of word association or a description of your team meetings?  If you chose the latter of the two, read on for some easy tips to help put the spark back into your team meetings and your practice!

1 Make it about them.

  • Employ the “open mic” policy and share air time. Amanda Morris, MBA and CVPM, Care Animal Hospital in Indiana, employs this at her practice by requiring each staff member to present what they’ve learned after attending a continuing education session.
  • Team meetings are an opportunity to hear different perspectives so keep an open mind. If you struggle with non-participants, there are methods you can employ such as letting everyone know that their opinions are valued, and going around the room and asking everyone to speak one at a time. Ms. Morris occasionally allows her staff to mingle and talk to each other about something other than work. This technique might help shy employees get more comfortable talking in front of a group.
  • Celebrate successes. Take time to recognize and celebrate your team’s accomplishments!
  • Incorporate regular continuing education to make your team, and ultimately your practice, stronger and more successful than you could ever accomplish solo. Cheryl Arnold, CVMP, Veterinary Medical Center in Maryland, invites different speakers every month. Recently she had an OSHA representative come in to educate her staff about a particular topic and how it came into play at their practice.

2. Provide structure.

  • Weekly meetings are part of the regular workday and start and end on time. Preferably in the morning or at lunch and keep it to 1 hour.
  • An environment free from interruption work best, so close the practice for the meeting.
  • If scheduled at lunchtime, eat first. “We have lunch the first half hour and then promptly at 12:30p.m. the food is removed and we begin the meeting. Doing so creates more interaction with the team and they contribute more to the discussion” says Ms. Arnold. The meeting agenda will cover a brief review of the prior week’s decisions, discussion of any problems encountered in implementing the decisions, suggestions to any problems encountered, any unresolved issues, and a status report by the person in charge of each action item from the prior week’s meeting. Give the staff the opportunity to submit topics for discussion. Distribute the agenda one or two days ahead so everyone can prepare. Develop the next agenda at the conclusion of the meeting.
  • What is the purpose of the meeting? Sure, you need to make some decisions, or resolve issues from time to time, but keep in mind that bringing your staff together as one cohesive team is also an important goal of any meeting. Ms. Morris invited her retirement plan administrator in to educate her team about paycheck withholdings and how to keep more of their money in their pockets as opposed to the government. It was so successful that she plans to invite the representative back to educate her team about personal budgets. This sends the message to her staff that they are as important as the hospital.
  • Attendance is required and they are paid to be there. Sure, there will be times when not everyone can attend, and managers and team leaders are responsible for providing a brief recap of the decisions reached during the meeting to absent staff members. Designate a facilitator and a note-taker for each meeting. The facilitator leads the meeting by starting on time, introduces each topic, ensures the meeting stays on track, and ends on time.  Assign note-taking responsibility to a team member who will distribute copies of the notes to everyone after each meeting.  The note-taker is responsible for writing down all key points of each topic, project assignments and deadlines.  Rotate note-taking responsibility among the staff every two to three months.

 3. Make it memorable.

  • Always open your meeting on a positive note. It can be newsworthy or even a heartwarming story related to a patient, employee, community, or even yourself. 
  • Be all inclusive. Mike Brown, DVM and Owner of Care Animal Hospital in Indiana, gives an annual “Financial State of the Practice Address”. Sharing what it costs to open the doors each day (utilities, credit card processing fees, inventory, and staff paychecks) is a real eye-opener for his team.
  • Close every meeting with a team huddle or cheer. Your mission or purpose statement (the reason for your existence) would be an excellent option!
  • Inspire your team with a weekly goal (there is none too small, none too big). Ask them to read a motivational book (Fish by Stephen C. Lundin or Gung Ho by Ken Blanchard) and have a discussion about how to incorporate what they gleaned from the reading into their jobs. Ms. Arnold has done team motivational goal setting for dental recommendations. She breaks her technicians into teams and when one of them recommends a dental, or shows a client how to use dental products, they get a sticker on their team’s scorecard. The team that has the most stickers over a certain period of time receives a gas gift card or something similar.
  • Work in the occasional surprise. A group stretch, a contest for achieving a significant practice goal, a cake to celebrate the practice’s purchase of new digital x-ray machine are just a few examples.

4. Have fun.

  • Understand the importance of balance in work life and personal life for you and for everyone in your practice. Work has to be as enjoyable to your staff, as it is to you!
  • It starts at the top. So look in the mirror, and then lead by example. If you show your enthusiasm for your work, your clients, and your colleagues, they will respond in kind.

5. Repeat.

Energizing. Interesting. Productive. A game of word association or a description of your team meetings!