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Friday, August 24, 2012

Priorities: The Management Team Meeting

If you are the leader or a member of a management team, this is for you.  Out of all the priorities that the management team has, taking time to meet together and get on the same page is one of the most important things that the team does.  If I had to state the most important reason for this, it would be

 to improve the consistency of management actions experienced by the staff members.

In just about every staff satisfaction survey, inconsistencies in the application of company policies and procedures and a sense of unfairness is cited as a problem in the workplace.  The only way that the management team can be consistent is to regularly discuss issues and talk through their philosophy on how to deal with particular issues.


The test of teamwork within the team is to assure that every member of the team is more committed to the work of the team than their individual opinions.  I like
as a catchy way of remembering that when I am the leader of the team, I must remember to create an environment where everyone feels that they can challenge my thoughts and decision-making.  Inviting other's feedback is important to getting to a better decision.  The managers in the group have a responsibility to speak up and assure that all alternatives and issues have been fully explored.  Once a final decision has been made, everyone in the management team, must support the decision down to the staff.  There can be no "Brent said, we're going to....".  There can be no manager who says "Although I don't agree with this, we have to....".  Challenge Up / Support Down means that all of my issues are put on the table during the initial discussion, but once the final decision is made, my job is to represent, without hesitation, the position of the team.


Everyone on the management team is busy. But management team meetings must be protected time with required attendance.  First of all, Challenge Up/Support Down is diluted if managers are not present to be involved in critical discussions.  Secondly, Managers are usually appointed according to divisions of labor representing certain staff member groups.  Failure to be present for management meetings means that the opinions and feedback of the employees affected by decisions may not be taken into consideration.  As hard as it is to preplan, I recommend a formal agenda with standing items and then current events that people need to discuss added in with a few minutes for each person during a "round robin" style format.  A sample agenda follows:  (Comments in parentheses are editorial)

ABC Management Meeting

I. Opening Remarks                                                       5 minutes                    Brent
     (the leader should start and end the meeting on time)

II. Reward & Recognition Opportunities for Staff            10 minutes                  Managers
    (some meetings deteriorate into bitch sessions about what the staff members will not do, a best practice is to start the meeting on a positive note harvesting things that the staff has done well since the last management meeting)

III. Policy Change Needed  Attending non-required         20 minutes                  Brent
      courses is not paid time

(This will represent a big change.  The discussion needs to be in the Challenge Up / Support Down style. A plan should be developed on how to discuss this with the staff.)

IV. Issues from each manager                                        10 minutes each            Education Manager
                                                                                                                         Quality Manager
                                                                                                                         Team A
                                                                                                                         Team B
                                                                                                                         Team C
                                                                                                                         Site II Manager

V. Adjournment                                         total time    95 minutes

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail


Meeting minutes are a must.  There will be many times when you find yourself knowing for sure that xyz was discussed at a meeting and someone else has no recollection of that.  I have cut my meeting minutes down to bullets and combined them with the agenda so that the final meeting record is a document that includes the agenda, attendance, and minutes.  If you go to as many meetings as I do, this process has got to be simplified, but it must also be accurate to document agreements.


In the meeting example above, a controversial topic that would change historically compensable courses to noncompensable courses was put into a rather full agenda.  The topic was allowed only 20 minutes.  It has been my experience that subjects such as these take more time than this, because you end up having to teach sections out of the Fair Labor Standards Act that newer managers are not familiar with.  Let's change the scenario and say that you are a new leader and you have discovered several such examples that have been going on for years.  You can be heavy-handed and just make the changes, but you will have left some of your management team behind and unable to respond appropriately to questions asked of them by the team members.  Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.  The best approach  to keep everyone on the same page when you have a large amount of content for the group to either advise on or to digest is to have a retreat.

Plan an agenda for a full day, off site that includes dealing with the issues you have to deal with plus an element of team building, and an element of management development for them.  Have a nice lunch and invite your boss out to meet and interact with the group.  I think it better to have an outside facilitator from your education department to lead through the day so that you can be a participant along with the rest of the group.  Even the highest functioning teams need retreats to recharge their batteries and have some significant, focused time together.

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