Meetings are an inescapable part of American work culture and no industry is immune—including dental. But with so many things going on in your practice, you can’t afford for your meetings to drag out.
To help dental teams make the most of their precious time and energy, we’ve gathered some of the best advice on running meetings. Because at the end of the day, your focus should be on your teammates, patients and practice, not ineffective gatherings.
The problem: Parkinson’s Law
Does this scenario sound familiar? You enter a meeting scheduled for one hour and the meeting facilitator says something along the lines of, “I scheduled this meeting for an hour, but we probably won’t go the full time.” And guess what? It usually goes the full time.
Why does this keep happening? You have Parkinson’s Law to thank for that. Simply put, this old adage states that work will adjust to fit the time allotted. If you schedule a meeting for one hour, it will likely go the full time.
Part of this is because we are conditioned to schedule meetings in 30-minute increments, thanks to how most calendar apps are developed. (And this shows in research: most meetings last between 31-60 minutes.) But it is also tied to poor planning: without clear direction and expectation-setting for the meeting, the time will be filled with detours, sidebars and other productivity killers.
The solution: Make sure your team is prepared for the meeting by providing clear expectations of what is to be covered and how long the conversation should take. An agenda is a great way to keep everyone on track: here is a great sample template. Once you’ve used the agenda a few times, challenge your teams to schedule meetings below those 30-minute increments. You’d be surprised how much you can get done in a 20-minute meeting!
The problem: Meetings starting late and running over
Few things are more frustrating than hustling to get to a meeting on time….and then having it start 10 minutes late because someone else is tardy. And during that awkward block of waiting time, the energy drains from the room and frustration mounts over the delayed start.
It’s important to remember that meetings are not just gatherings: they are also symbolic of how your practice values your employees’ time. When employees feel their time is not being respected, they will become disengaged. Conversely, employees who feel they are respected at work report an 89% job satisfaction rate and 92% say they are better able to focus and prioritize their work according to a survey by the Harvard Business Review.
The solution: This one is simple: start and end on time. If the meeting is scheduled to start at 8 a.m. and people are missing, start the meeting. It will set a precedent and your teammates will feel appreciated that you respect their time. If the meeting time expires before all the topics are covered, do not run over. Respect the time of everyone in the room and instead schedule a follow-up meeting to tie up any loose ends.
The problem: Nobody knows what happens after the meeting ends
Even the best, most efficiently run meetings can fall apart if there are no clear action items by the time people stand up to leave. Data shows that, far and away, the number one complaint employees have about meetings is that they feel they are unproductive and inconclusive. And this ties back to the idea of respect: if employees do not feel their time and contributions matter, they are less likely to be engaged in the future.
Another side effect of not assigning action items or having decisions documented is the dreaded rehashing of old topics in future meetings. Everyone is busy and does not want to spend time discussing items that have already been addressed. If someone needs to get brought up to speed, it does not need to be with an audience.
The solution: First, consider the type of meeting you are scheduling: if it has no purpose of sharing actionable items or making decisions, an email might be a better fit. If you do meet, make sure everyone leaves the room on the same page with a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished based on the discussion. Designate someone on the team to send a brief follow-up email with any action items and decisions that were made.
The bottom line: Put time and money into perspective
Throughout this article, you’ve likely noticed the biggest common denominator is time. Time is your most valuable resource and an important way to show employees respect. But we’ve also heard the expression “time is money” and that is where all these time-related factors come together.
We’ll leave you with a little homework: The next time you are thinking of holding a meeting, consider how much it will cost your practice. This simple tool from the Harvard Business Review can help you calculate the cost of your meeting. If you’re not happy with the number you see, look for ways to make improvements by using the advice we shared.
And when you do implement changes to your meeting structure, make sure your teammates have the opportunity to offer feedback! If everyone feels engaged and respected, then you’re definitely doing something right.