10 Tips for Successful, Effective Team Meetings

Mindy Schoeneman

Growing Your Dental Practice

You want to invest in your team members. You know the difference it makes to be part of a team where each member is their own leader. Taking ownership of their roles within the success of the practice, striving for growth, seeking fulfillment and satisfaction within their professional expertise, seeing how excellent team work impacts the patients you all serve together—who doesn’t want that for themselves and their team? Developing that kind of team takes work, as you know. We talked about the importance of team meetings before.

Here are 10 practical tips for successful, effective meetings that will leave each member of your team feeling energized and ready to implement what you’ve learned.

1. Schedule a whole year of team meetings at once.

Coordinating schedules and getting an entire team of professionals to commit to a meeting that lasts more than 15 minutes may feel daunting. So go through that process of juggling schedules as little as possible by scheduling an entire year’s worth of team meetings at once. 

How does the third Friday of the month look for everyone? Good? Good. Book it. All year long. Make meetings a standing appointment with your team, so everyone can plan ahead and never be surprised. 

It might be tempting to cancel meetings sometimes to fit in patients who call last minute for an appointment or because Susie from reception is on vacation, but show your team your commitment to the process of growing together by sticking to the time and day you’ve all set aside for the meeting. Once you’ve scheduled the meetings, it’s time to plan for them.

2. Prepare for your team meetings with a purpose in mind.

“For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.” — Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book

My point is that the entire organization will grow and thrive as long as each one of us continues to grow and thrive. To grow and thrive, we need the proper encouragement, tools, education, and attention of those who can walk alongside us. 

That’s what your meetings will be about: strengthening, encouraging, and developing your team members individually. It’s also about developing your pack through team building.

A strong team will encourage growth and development from its members, and that growth and development will affect everything and everyone within your practice. 

In other words, effective team meetings will grow your practice.

To be an encourager, the focus of your meetings should be on what each person is doing right. Your role in your meetings is to fill your team’s cup with encouragement and praise, renew their love of their profession, or ignite that fire in team members for the first time. The encouragement and praise you give will motivate your team to perform at its best.

Prepare yourself for this by evaluating the action around you. What’s happening with Susie in the reception area? How’s the new hygienist engaging with patients?

Think about each team member and take notes if you need to. If you have a large team, look at the departments as a whole. How is the administrative team exceeding your expectations? What have the dental assistants done recently that you appreciated?

Recognizing even the smallest thing someone has done exceptionally well will not only encourage them to repeat that performance, but it will also let them know you really are paying attention, and you truly do appreciate their efforts.

3. Ask for a volunteer facilitator for each meeting.

There’s a secret to successful meetings.

That secret is simple: You shouldn’t be the person to run the meeting. Instead, a facilitator is the perfect solution. The best part? That facilitator should come from your own team, so you won’t get tired of hearing your own voice, and your team can develop their leadership skills. 

“Leaders are not born, and good leaders are those who work at becoming better.” — Patty Flanagan, advisor at Jameson Coaching

Not everyone knows how to lead. As you’ve learned since buying your first practice, leadership is something that requires mindful development. 

The first objection you’re going to hear from team members is that they “can’t.” Either that they aren’t good public speakers, they aren’t leaders, or they don’t know what they could possibly talk about that anyone else would want to hear.

Your response to that is simple: You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t capable. Remind them of the important role they play in the practice and of the experience and expertise they bring to the table.

Additionally, make sure they understand there will be an agenda to guide the meeting, and you will all be brainstorming together for your first meeting to set the agenda for future ones. 

Speaking of agendas…

4. Agendas are safety nets.

A written and distributed meeting agenda will provide the meeting with structure. It will also help to set the rules for the meeting, which will encourage participation from attendees.  

Your first meeting might need to be a little different from the rest, but that’s okay. The first one will set up the rest.

The first time slot on the agenda of your initial meeting will be taken up by you. This is your chance to invite your team members to become part owners of the practice through shared growth and success. You’ll be inviting your team members to own their role in the practice and its success.

Share with them your vision for the practice, the team, and your patients. Ask them to join you on the adventure. After that, it’s time for a little group participation. 

Prior to the meeting, it’s a good idea to circulate a note with space for individuals to write down topic ideas for professional and educational development. It can be anything they’d like to discuss, learn more about, or brainstorm.

By circulating this note ahead of time, you’re giving your introverts and internal processors time to consider what you’re asking of them, come up with some ideas, and share those ideas with the group. Providing space and time for every personality type to lead and learn is vital in helping everyone grow. 

The topics could be anything from how to engage with patients through the practice’s social media to how to better help pediatric patients and their parents accept a case diagnosis and proposed treatment plan. It might even be a topic you need outside help to discuss, such as a new tool with unfamiliar technology.

Bring the list with you to the meeting, and spend time brainstorming educational topics to cover at every meeting for the next year. Your extroverts and external processors are those who speak up most often in meetings, especially during brainstorming sessions. It’s how they connect, participate, and contribute. So they’ll need this time to come up with ideas that will benefit the group. 

Once you have a complete list with 12 months’ worth of topics, it’s time to ask for volunteers to facilitate the meeting and present the educational topic slated for that meeting. Every team member should have the opportunity to both facilitate a meeting and present an educational topic, but it’s best if the same person isn’t facilitating and leading the educational topic at the same meeting. 

We learn best when we teach, so being the leader presenting the educational topic will help team members learn in a way they can’t as an observer. Being the facilitator will also help them develop their leadership skills. And your role, as the observer, will offer you a chance to appreciate your team members, their strengths, and their differences. 

If you have internal processors (most often, you’ll spot them in a group setting such as this because they are the ones who rarely share without prompting, and most groups will have at least one), you may need to circulate this list of topics and meeting dates over the next week, so they can process their thoughts before selecting their preferred topic and which meeting they’d like to facilitate.

Now that you have your list of educational topics, as well as your list of leaders, you have a general agenda for the rest of the team meetings. 

Or do you?

5. Take time for change.

A great way to promote leadership and the idea that every member’s voice and opinion is heard and important is to add 15 minutes to the agenda for the “change notebook.”

Harvard Business Review’s Sydney Finkelstein encourages his clients to implement this practice into team meetings to spur innovation. Simply open up a notebook, turn to a blank page, and draw lines to separate that page into three columns. In those three columns, write the following:

  1. “What is the way we’ve always done it?” 
  2. “What might indicate this practice isn’t serving all of our patients or our practice?” 
  3. “What can we do to better serve our patients?

Put everything you do within your practice through the change notebook. You might discover an innovative answer to a common issue you’ve all been having, or you might see that a new practice is working well and is in need of only small adjustments. The important part is that your team will have their voices heard and their thoughts considered.

6. Switch up your meeting format.

Consider switching up the format of the meeting every once in a while. Sometimes, after your educational component, consider breaking the meeting attendees into smaller groups where you workshop specific topics. These could be topics you’ve talked about in the change notebook, one of the educational topics, or something else entirely.

For example, ask for volunteers to run a scenario within their group, such as roleplaying a typical situation with a patient and hygienist or the accounts receivable coordinator and a patient.

Add goal-setting to your agenda, as well. 

7. Set goals.

These meetings are a time for you all to learn and grow, but you should be growing toward a goal.

If you have a big-picture goal, then utilize the meetings for updating the team on milestones and setting new short-term goals. If you’d like to develop the practice to $1 million in production, for example, your team’s participation in meeting goals is vital to your success.

8. Follow through.

“Education without implementation is just entertainment.” — Dr. Yen Tran 

Pretend you’ve made it through your second meeting. Your team member presented an educational topic meant to make you all better leaders, practice members, and dental care providers. You’ve made goals, too. To reach those goals, though, you must bring it all together with implementation.

For example, what’s the point in discussing ways to revolutionize your new patient process if no one implements any of those ideas? Why roleplay patient scenarios if you don’t take the lessons learned from those exercises and implement that knowledge into your practice?

Ask your team members to be the leaders they are by taking the responsibility of implementing the topics discussed. When revamping your new patient process, ask for a volunteer to spearhead the project, for example.

If the education topic is better time management through time-blocking, ask for a volunteer to help the practice implement those ideas into the scheduling system.

Let the team members be the leaders of their own areas of expertise, offering the support and the freedom to be autonomous and innovative. The results will be progress you cannot achieve without their help.

9. Check in at the next meeting.

When goal-setting, put a timeframe on your goals. Then, as a group, follow up on the results. Ask your project team leaders to update the rest of the team on the implementation of their projects. It brings all the work you’ve put in together full-circle.

10. Show your appreciation.

While team meetings aren’t and shouldn’t be about you, always take the opportunity to show your appreciation for your team’s hard work.

At some meetings provide some words of affirmation by telling your team how much their work and participation mean to you. At other meetings, you can provide tokens of your gratitude.

With a solid plan, you can develop your team members into the leaders you need to meet all of the big-picture goals of your practice.

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