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Office Meetings Falling Flat? Here’s an Approach You Should Try

After years of trial and error, this North Carolina practice found the secret is in the right structure.

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AT INVISION, WE’VE been beating this drum — the importance of regular, structured staff meetings — for years. So, we figured don’t take our word for it, take your peers’. One North Carolina practice shared their approach to meetings that has gained staff buy-in and greatly improved communication.

THE IDEA

Since Dr. Thomas Pinkston and Dr. E. Aimée McBride took over as co-owners at Haywood Family Eye Care in Waynesville, NC, in 2016, structured staff meetings have evolved into an integral part of the business’ operations. “Our main objective during these meetings,” says Dr. Pinkston, “is to increase two-way communication about current issues, office changes, patient care and any relevant office issues we need to address.”

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THE EXECUTION

To maximize efficiency, Haywood Family Eye Care’s weekly office meetings have a repeatable, three-part structure:

1. Financial review: Under the office’s “open book” management style, each team member is responsible for tracking and reporting a few financial metrics. During the review, each team member reports on their metrics. Dr. Pinkston says the process “allows our team to better understand the financial standing of the practice.”

2. General update: This section covers, in a structured way, pertinent issues and general office updates that require group discussion. The office manager presents these topics with time allotted for discussion. “This is presented visually in our meeting room, and may be accompanied with physical handouts; the slides from the presentation are available to each team member after the meeting,” says Dr. Pinkston.

3. Staff engagement: This changes every few months to keep things feeling genuine. At the time INVISION spoke to Dr. Pinkston the team was playing a “Who am I?” game, in which each staff member answers a few questions about their favorite activities and things their teammates may not be aware of. Then answers are presented and the team tries to guess which staff member is the focus that week.

Dr. Pinkston warns that in a large group setting there is always potential for the meeting to move away from the intended focus and become unconstructive. At Haywood, the repeatable format of the meetings and the practice’s very well-defined communication and leadership structure help to minimize this risk.

THE REWARDS

Haywood Family Eye Care’s office meetings are a key component of its open book management system; aside from the individual benefits, Dr. Pinkston says the buy-in that team members get from this approach helps the practice’s systems evolve and improve.

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He adds that the meetings have a substantial impact on communication, expectations and morale. Experience has shown that many issues originate from poor two-way communication, but with structured meetings in place, when a team member has an idea to improve the office or an issue they need to address, or wants to offer feedback, there are multiple ways to bring this to management’s attention. Dr. Pinkston adds, however, that the meetings, for all their success, are still a work in progress. “By no means does our office have this perfected. Far from it. In fact I think this may be one of my biggest areas I personally need to improve as a business owner. We have attempted to create a clear and obvious structure for our team to know where, when, with whom and how to communicate. Our ultimate goal with our meetings and team structure is to minimize negative fluctuations in office morale.”

Do It Yourself: Add Some Structure 
to Staff
 Meetings

  • A LITTLE PRAISE. “Make sure to celebrate wins of your team or recognize individual team members when they embody the spirit of your practice,” says Dr. Pinkston.
  • STEP IN WHERE NEEDED… “There is always the possibility of a meeting taking an exit off the highway of productivity. Do not be afraid to pause or interrupt discussions if needed.”
  • …BUT DON’T RAIN ON THE PARADE. “Make sure to not step in on productive discussions,” says Dr. Pinkston.
  • PRIORITIZE THE WHOLE PRACTICE. “If you need to perfect some issue with one unit of your team, do this in a separate huddle.
  • BE REALISTIC. Remember that some meeting topics need more time to properly discuss than others and shouldn’t be rushed, Dr. Pinkston advises.

After years covering some of the farther flung corners of the world of business journalism, Heath has more recently focused on covering the efforts of independent eyecare professionals to negotiate a fast-changing industry landscape. Contact him at [email protected]

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