The format used to run your staff meetings can have a dramatic effect.

The format used to run your staff meetings can have a dramatic effect on their ability to:

* Communicate important information to your team.

* Gain an understanding of issues affecting your department’s productivity.

* Build team cohesion and interpersonal communication.

* Enhance organizational effectiveness.

* Make you look like a competent manager.

There are certainly many other factors that affect the above departmental and personal goals - don’t underestimate the power of well-run staff meetings to forward your departmental objectives and professional ambitions. Your staff meeting is the one place per week when your entire staff is able to collectively observe your leadership, organizational, managerial, and interpersonal style and capabilities. As a result, taking your staff meetings seriously, as a place to get things done, enhance your group’s capabilities and as a venue to illustrate your leadership prowess.

There are various ways to run a staff meeting. I like to classify them in four ways. When reviewing these meeting types, note that they go from less-structured to more-structured and each have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Hey, let's get together and talk about stuff

This type of staff meeting is totally unstructured, has no specific agenda and has no specifically defined topics and/or action plans. The advantage of this type of staff meeting is that it requires no up-front planning or forethought, you just show up and ask everyone, “What’s going on?” The downsides of this meeting type, however, are substantial and include the following disadvantages:

* Important topics that should be discussed are forgotten and thus not discussed.

* Your team has no real idea of how long the meeting will run, therefore making it harder to plan their workday.

* As the manager, you look very unprepared. This observation by your staff can easily erode your team’s respect and trust of your leadership.

* Your seemingly lack of interest in your staff meeting’s value and importance will cause them to follow your lead and think of the meetings as unneeded and a waste of time.

Once-around-the-room

This type of staff meeting is as it sounds. Namely, you go around the room one-by-one and everyone gets a turn to talk. During this time they can talk about project status, business issues or anything else of importance that comes to mind. The meeting ends when you have gone all the way around the room and everyone has had a chance to speak.

Like the previous meeting type, this type of meeting requires no preparation but feels much more organized and structured. Additionally, because everyone coming to the meeting knows that they will be required to speak, they will be at least somewhat prepared, so as not to look unorganized in front of their peers and boss. Another advantage of this approach is group communication. That is to say, not only is everyone speaking, but everyone is also listening. As a result, everyone on your team gets to learn what everyone else is doing, which facilitates enhanced team coordination, group project ownership and teamwork.

The downside of this type of meeting format is that:

* Not everyone has something of importance to say every week. As a result, people either elaborate on unimportant items, which wastes time, or simply pass and say nothing.

* Some people don’t know when to stop talking and go on-and-on until told to stop. This can be embarrassing for the person speaking and painful for everyone who is listening and trying to be polite.

* If multiple people are working on the same project, after the first person speaks, all others working on the same project have very little to say.

When I use this meeting format, as the manager, I like to go last. That way I can comment on what was said, bring up items of importance that were missed and ensure the meeting ends on a positive note.

In next week’s column we’ll discuss the next two meeting types, weekly specific agenda and standard weekly agenda, as well as how these various meeting types can be used in combination to maximize staff meeting effectiveness.

The primary advice and takeaways from today’s column is to know that:

* Your staff meetings can have a dramatic affect on your department’s effectiveness and personal professional success.

* Different meeting type formats have different advantages and disadvantages.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, manage well and continue to build your professional brand.

Eric P. Bloom is the president and founder of Manager Mechanics LLC, a management training company specializing in information technology leadership and is the governing organization of the ITMLP and ITMLE certifications. He is also a keynote speaker, nationally syndicated columnist, and author of the books “The CIO’s Guide to Staff Needs, Growth, and Productivity,” “Your IT Career: Get Noticed, Get Promoted, and Build Your Professional Brand” and “52 Great Management Tips.” Contact him at eric@ManagerMechanics.com, follow him on Twitter at @EricPBloom or visit www.ManagerMechanics.com.