Staff meetings are an essential part of your toolbox as an administrator. Making a meeting great is an art you can master by using careful timing, considered curation, and thoughtful cues. This work starts with recognizing the power of the sticking to a relevant staff meeting agenda.
Your typical agenda with its 5 or 6 bullet points for discussion might never even be opened. Instead think of the agenda as a contract between you and your staff members. In the contract, you set forth the terms of the meeting, and in return for engagement, you promise to keep the meeting on topic and on time. Doing so shows teachers that their voices are essential to achieving solutions to community issues and that you care about their time. With these five tips, you will be able to orchestrate your next meeting like a pro:
1| State the goal of every meeting
It sounds so simple, but so many staff meeting agendas fail to meet this simple requirement. People attending the meeting should know why they are there so they can offer their best selves to the group. If you give the group a destination, they have a better chance at arriving in one piece and on time.
2| Curate agenda items that are relevant
Be a good steward of time and energy. Do so by curating the agenda items with an eye toward giving airtime to the essential topics. Harvard Business Review writer Paul Axtell suggests “As a target, put 20% fewer items on your agenda and allow 20% more time for each item.” My personal rule of thumb is that if it can be said in an email, it does not need to be in a meeting. Save your time for voices, not announcements.
3| Give teachers 3-days to review agenda items
We ask students to be prepared for class. It’s reasonable to ask the same of adults. An agenda sent out three days ahead of the meeting offers them time to think about how they might contribute, but not too much time for them to forget. It also shows that you are thoughtfully considering how to make the best use of your time with one another.
4| Establish “no multi-tasking” rules
Productive meetings occur when each person allows themselves to be present without multitasking. When you send your agenda out, be clear about your expectations about personal devices or cross-talks during the meeting. Previewing these requests avoids group announcements reminding people to put away technology, which can feel personally targeting.
5| Make time for people to tell their stories
Make your meetings moments for connection by creating room for stories. Sara Gray at the National Equity Project writes, “People need to feel a sense of belonging and connection, to each other and to their work, no matter who they are or how they’re positioned in your team or organization. Create space where people’s story is validated and incorporated, not dismissed or ignored.”
An artful leader will dovetail stories with a powerful discussion about school issues. Don’t lead a group discussion about school discipline or the developing next year’s master schedule in the abstract. Make it relevant by soliciting funny, frustrating or insightful stories from teachers about the experience. Give them pair/share time and ask them to share with the larger group. When you allow people to bring their stories to the group, you give them space to be human. More importantly, you offer an opportunity for them to hear one another. Great things can happen when you move issues from the abstract to the personal, and stories are a resource that a smart leader will always tap.
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