Do you spend hours every week at boring meetings that never seem to get anywhere and are a complete waste of time? Are they your meetings?
One of the BIGGEST gripes for many of us, is attending meetings that are a waste of time. All of us are too busy and have too much to do, to waste time in pointless meetings.
Meetings have tremendous potential for both consulting WITH, and communicating TO, our staff. However to achieve this potential, meetings need to be an efficient use of people’s time and lead to clear decisions and actions.
It is essential that leaders clearly communicate whether we are consulting WITH staff about a decision to be made or INFORMING staff of a decision that has been made. Staff become very frustrated and the leadership team lose credibility, when meetings are held under the auspices of consultation, yet a decision appears to have already been made. Staff become disillusioned when viewpoints expressed at a meeting will not have any bearing on a decision that is perceived to have already been taken.
Meetings should only be held for three purposes:-
- Get everyone on the same page – Inform, clarify and align
- Consult – Seek ideas and input
- Achieve concensus – Resolve problems and disputes
The two biggest mistakes made by school leaders in meetings are over-using meetings to inform and pretending to consult.
If the majority of the meeting is one-way communication (ie telling staff) then a meeting is not always the best way. A regular staff newsletter with short, sharp information is often far more effective.
Pretend consultation is one of the greatest frustrations of staff in schools around the world. It is essential that HOW the decision will be made and by WHOM is clearly communicated. Whilst some decisions can be democratic, leading a school is not a democracy.
There are basically three options.
- We’ll discuss the options and take a vote. (Only use this option if you can live with any of the potential outcomes)
- We’ll discuss the options and the school leadership team will take your viewpoints into consideration when we make the decision.
- We’ve made a decision and now I’m informing you of the decision and why.
One of the potential problems of meetings is that they can become ‘whinge fests’. The difference between effective and ineffective meetings is how well the meeting stays focused on defining problems and their solutions and how well it avoids turning into a gripe session that proves demoralising. The following research is helpful.
Overall, teams succeeded when they used problem-focused statements during the meetings — especially when members defined the objective of a meeting in light of the issues facing them, provided different perspectives on highlighted problems, and framed their concerns in terms of potential solutions.
Teams also got better outcomes when they used proactive communication — when members expressed interest in taking responsibility for the changes ahead or planned concrete actions. Meetings were also better when leaders had a strong voice, ensuring that the sessions stayed on point.
By contrast, unstructured meetings negatively affected team members’ satisfaction, group productivity and organisational performance. Particularly damaging were “dysfunctional communicative behaviors such as criticising or complaining.” Seeking others to blame and shifting responsibility wasted precious meeting time and could lead to “complaining cycles, in which one complaining statement is chasing the next.”
Because meetings represent a unique opportunity for employees to discuss the negative aspects of their job in great detail, they pose a danger to morale if the complaining isn’t reined in and the discussion isn’t refocused on specific problems and their solutions.
“Interestingly, dysfunctional communication appeared to affect team meeting success more than functional communication,” the authors write. “For example, the negative relationship between counteractive statements and team meeting success was stronger than the positive relationship between proactive statements and team meeting success.”
In other words, it’s more important to have fewer bad meetings than it is to have more good ones. Accordingly, the authors advise leaders and facilitators to ask their employees to formally reflect on meeting processes. If nothing else, this gives them the chance to vent via e-mail or questionnaire, channels that don’t carry the potential for damage that dysfunctional team meetings do.
Staff Engagement in Schools?
I’m worried about the morale of teachers. Just quietly, many of them are NOT happy! They may not say that openly to the Principal or other school leaders but many are feeling unhappy and frustrated. They often vent to their partners, their colleagues and even to strangers in social settings.
Unhappy teachers often present a nice façade and respond with the usual pleasantries however, scratch the surface and they are unhappy and frustrated.
At their best, staff who are unhappy will do what is required but won’t bring the passion, energy and commitment that a happy staff member brings. At their worst, an unhappy staff member is toxic, will undermine change initiatives and sabotage the good things that are happening in your school.
The challenges of staff engagement do not only apply to leaders in schools. Research from across many industries indicate that only about one in three employees are ENGAGED (36%) and nearly one in five are actually DISENGAGED (17%).
The recording of the Happy School Webinar on “Staff Engagement” can be accessed by schools who subscribe to Happy School.
Data Rich OR Data Informed?
Thank you for the great response to the launch of Happy School Surveys. The response and feedback have been outstanding.
In response to the limitations of a survey that only provides data and doesn’t provide any specific guidance or direction, we have developed Happy School Surveys for each of the following groups – staff, parents and students (primary and secondary).
The on-line surveys are INTERACTIVE. Each survey provides specific feedback for the school leadership team on emerging issues within the school. The format will be especially helpful to Principals in not only measuring staff, student and parent satisfaction but also in identifying specific areas of concern. It could be used as part of a school review process or once a semester to measure progress.
If you’d like to find out more about Happy School Surveys, click on this link to download a flyer or try a demo survey yourself – click on these below links for each survey –
Happy School Professional Development Webinars
The next Happy School Webinar is titled “Building Trust – the ONE essential skill school leaders need” and will be held on Monday August 27th from 11:00am through to 11:30am. Happy School Webinars are provided each term. They are provided FREE for schools who subscribe to receive Happy School Articles. A registration link will be sent to Happy School subscribers.
Attitude is Everything – Middle Years Program
The response to our middle years program, “Attitude is Everything” has been great. The stand-alone program of lessons is presented in a ready-to-use workbook. The program was co-written by Bruce Sullivan and Steve Francis to help staff in schools foster a more positive attitude in middle years students.
Happy School Staff articles this month include…
- Little Acts of Kindness
- Wake up and Win by Amanda Gore
- Funny Things Happen in Schools
- Healthy Staff = Happy Life
- Dealing with Difficult People
Professional development sessions for your staff are available on a range of topics ideal for student free day’s or after school sessions. Email to check availability of your preferred date.
Which topic does your team need most?
Increasing WORK-LIFE Satisfaction
Working in schools can be challenging. A happy staff achieves better results. It is vital that staff in schools get satisfaction from the important work we do. Thinking of our happiness in terms of ‘balance’ leads us to think that we have to ‘balance out’ the time or energy that we spend at work with the time and energy we put into the rest of our lives. This adds to our stress! We need to get satisfaction from both our work and the rest of our lives. It is essential that we focus on what is REALLY important in our lives. This IS your REAL life – it isn’t a dress rehearsal.
Building Trust – Essential Skills
Trust is at the heart of all relationships. Trust impacts on us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It impacts on the quality of every relationship, every communication, every workplace and every organisation. Building Trust is vital! Stephen Covey’s 13 behaviours that build trust are simple, straight forward and immediately transferable to schools. They apply at all levels. Having good intentions is not enough. It is behaviour that counts!
The one constant in the world today is change! Ultimately our response to change is dependent on our attitude AND we CHOOSE our attitude.Our people need to be positive, optimistic and energetic. In this session I’ll help staff in schools to develop the right attitude. I identify the three biggest obstacles to successful change and the specific strategies needed to overcome these challenges. A positive attitude is essential to success.
Gr8 People are Part of Gr8 Teams
There are 10 vital attributes that are necessary in all teams within schools. For a team to reach their potential each individual needs to make their contribution and that contribution needs to be aligned with the school’s direction and priorities. The better that people work together and are aligned, the better outcomes the school will achieve.
Which of the attributes do your teams do well and which ones need to be improved? Establishing clear and agreed priorities, in simple language is essential.
Feedback – Helping Teachers Be the Best They Can Be
School audits highlighted the need for many schools to establish processes for providing feedback to teachers as a vital aspect of improved performance in schools. However giving teacher’s feedback is not part of the culture in most schools. In this session we look at why feedback is so important, consider a range of options and develop an action plan for establishing a feedback culture.
7 Secrets of Motivating and Engaging Students
(PS…they work for the teachers too!!)
Motivating and engaging students can be challenging. Many students have short concentration spans, are disinterested and disengaged from learning. Teaching is more demanding than ever before! Traditional carrot and stick approaches have limited effect. Ultimately we can’t MAKE anybody DO something. In this session I’ll share the 7 secrets that teachers must implement to motivate and engage their students. All teachers can implement these practical, well-grounded strategies to improve their students’ attitude.
Conferences and Work With Schools
In coming month I’m looking forward to working with…
- School leaders in Alice Springs and Brisbane for full day programs on Establishing a Feedback Culture
- School staff at Manly SS and Carmel College
- School leadership teams in a number of schools including Wynnum Manly cluster
- School Business Managers at their State conference on the Gold Coast
- Admin staff from Independent Schools Queensland at their conference
- Parents and school leaders in Melbourne with Michael Grose
- Year 10 students and staff at Loreto College, Ballarat.
If you’d like me to present at your conference or work with your staff, email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Parenting Ideas Conference in Melbourne
I’m looking forward to presenting at Michael Grose’s Parenting Ideas conference in Melbourne on Friday August 17 for school leaders, teachers and welfare staff and for parents on Saturday August 18.
The venue is ‘20 minutes from the airport and 20 minutes from the city’. Melbourne is a great place for a long weekend break.
For further details on the teacher conference – go to
or the parenting extravaganza – go to
You can get $22 off the special online price for the Parenting Extravaganza by entering the discount code – parenting – when you book online.