Private practices who deliver services to children and families are increasingly becoming a multi-disciplinary affair. Sitting around the team meeting table at any one time may be occupational therapists, speech pathologists, psychologists, dietitians, special educators, physiotherapist, admin staff and possibly therapy assistants. Such a diverse range of talents, interests and experiences. But how do you make a meeting work for such a diverse group?
In my private practice coaching work, I hear of all sorts of approaches to team meetings: face-to-face, virtual (Skype), short (30 minutes), long (two hours), weekly, fortnightly, monthly … never. The later makes me nervous. Regardless of the frequency and duration, the question I always ask is, ‘are your team meetings effective’? Given that we are trained to work with people, there is a tradition and strong residual preference for face-to-face meetings. But times have changed, most private practice now have a swarm of part timers spread over a wide geographical area. Perhaps a combo of face-to-face and virtual team meetings is the way of the future. How would this suit your business?
In terms of frequency, I witness everything from weekly power meetings of 30 minutes, fortnightly 90 minute meetings and monthly 2 hour meetings. Then there can be combinations of any of the above. For example, how would a weekly power meeting combined with a monthly 2 hour gathering work for you, your attendees and business?
A great meeting needs a plan, an agenda and an assertive chairperson. As the business owner this is your leadership task. Previous action items need to be checked on and managed accordingly; new discussion points listed and plan content ready to be delivered. A popular approach is for the first half the meeting to have a business focus and may include new developments, collaborative review of paperwork, report formats, position descriptions, customer service expectations, in-house procedures and administrivia. If your admin team are participating, they may like to leave the meeting at this time. The second half of the meeting often takes a clinical focus, this being easier to manage when leading discipline specific professionals. When leading a multi-disciplinary team there are still a multitude of common topics that apply across all fields e.g. anxiety, self-regulation, attention, family centered practice, goals setting … the trick is to get your team thinking hard, deepening their clinical knowledge AND planning how to apply it to their clinical practice. Are you ticking this box during your team meetings?
Tried and trusted strategies include:
- Providing a journal article for pre-reading and discussion during the meetings
- Team members could each review a website/book/resource around a clinical theme and provide three minute feedback
- Mind map a case study
- Work through a new assessment tool
- Develop a clinical observation checklist, exploring the ‘Why’ supporting each item
- Invite an external guest speaker to share their wisdom
- Team members preparing and presenting specific topics
- Unpacking tricky kids and challenging clinical scenarios
- For a lighter touch try brainstorming 20 ways to use Lego/drawing/books/balls/bean bags …
Chairing a team meeting takes practice, particularly if you are working across a virtual platform. Make technology your friend and stretch to using Skype in all its glory, groups, screen share and recording. For both virtual or real team meetings you need to be completely organised well ahead of time, have your papers sorted in the order you’ll deliver them (obsessive I know – but try it, it works!), clear about what you need to achieve and skilled at generating team wide conversation, action, accountability and outcomes. Manage the time well and take personal notes. Always.
And YES it is a good idea to take Minutes. Really brief Minutes. You may choose to do this yourself or delegate it. They need to be written during the meeting, otherwise it will consume an extra 20 minutes time that you probably don’t have. Skype and teleconference calls can be recorded and outsourced off shore for transcribing. The minutes need to be engaging, practical, possibly contain web links to content and have names assigned to tasks. For me, they need to be circulated within 24 hours, this ensures that they are memorable, relevant and useful.
I would like to invite you to review your current meeting frequency, format and effectiveness. What would be the value to yourself, your team and your clients if you shook it up a little? Hold in mind that such a shake-up will come as a change to your team, a change that will probably need planning, careful implementation and adjustment. Perhaps your own leadership and chairing skills need some polish. Who can coach you to extend your skills and run brilliant, memorable and effective team meetings? No need to wait for the end of a term or the end of year, make change your friend and start the review process right now. Get thinking on how you can charge up your team meetings from good to great, holding in mind that it’s your clients who benefit from a high performance clinically elite team.