Your intentions are admirable: Because you know how important it is to bring employees together to discuss key business issues, you schedule regular staff meetings.

But simply putting people together in one room does not make for a fulfilling experience. Too many staff meetings are so boring and pointless that they're actually demotivating.

Here are seven sins to avoid (and suggestions about what to do differently):

  1. Unclear objectives. Getting together just to get together is a big, expensive waste of people's time. Before you send the calendar invitation, think about why you hold staff meetings. For example, at our company, the primary objective is to build knowledge about the work we do. So our staff meetings are structured as learning experiences.
  2. Inconsistent schedule. Some weeks you hold a meeting, some weeks you don't--no one ever knows until the day (or even the hour) before. A key success factor in staff meetings is to hold them regularly so they're part of your team's routine. Although we might cancel a few meetings a year for holidays and when our workload is impossible, we're very disciplined about our Tuesday morning (8:30 a.m.) schedule.
  3. Nobody's in charge. Unless someone owns responsibility for staff meetings, all of these other sins are likely to occur. At our company, the somewhat thankless job of organizing and running the staff meetings falls to Donna Marino, our director of Operations and People. Donna manages the schedule, encourages staff members to suggest agenda items, does a fair amount of necessary nagging to make sure contributors are ready and generally keeps the trains running on time.
  4. No agenda. Without an agenda, any meeting is chaos. And staff meetings especially need the structure of who's sharing what and for how long. Donna writes the agenda on a flip chart at the start of every meeting, so participants know what we're going to accomplish.
  5. The boss does all the talking. I'm a boss, and I'm well aware of how boring I can be, especially when I begin to rant. A staff meeting should not be a platform for your diatribes on every topic. You may have a few things to say, but you should talk less than 20% of the time--and actively listen when your team members are presenting or sharing their perspectives.
  6. The focus is status reporting. The worst staff meetings go like this: one team member presents for five minutes on what he/she is working on, then the next team member presents for five minutes, then the next, and so on and so on until everyone's ears are bleeding. If you need to know what people are working on, schedule short one-on-one or small group meetings.
  7. No fun. Yes, staff meetings have a business purpose, but it doesn't mean they can't be interesting and involving. We try to create enthusiasm, so our people start their day with a burst of energy. That means designing staff meetings so people participate. We encourage people to share their views. Sometimes we organize a team activity or even a game to get employees engaged.

While not every session is successful, the point is to give staff meetings care and attention so the time your team members invest is well spent.