If you lead a dental team you simply must have meetings. Daily meetings, weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings, an annual meeting – they all have their own purpose and they are all necessary to keep a team aligned and optimally productive. Too often, however, these meetings are not as focused as they could be. So let’s take a look at a common meeting-disrupter and how to deal with it.

spear education team meetings dental staff

You start with the best of intentions, doing the right things. You reserve time for the team meeting, you put together an agenda of items you want to address and gather material to present. And then, inevitably, it happens.

A few minutes into discussing the first item, someone raises a point. It may be a point that was inspired by the topic at hand, but it’s not directly relevant to what you want to discuss. Nevertheless, you address their point, so you that you can get it out of the way and move on.

Except that doesn’t happen. Your response inspires another comment, which inspires others to weigh in and before you know it your meeting has lost its focus and gone off down a number of side roads, or even degenerated into a free-for-all gripe fest. Eventually you try to get back to the purpose of the meeting, but by then you’re running out of time, and the issues you had prepared to discuss get rushed through or tabled for another time. Your meeting has been hijacked.

The obvious solution – and the correct one – is to simply be diligent about sticking to the agenda and keeping the discussion focused and on point.

But how do you do that? If you just refuse to entertain any interruptions or quickly push aside any concerns or questions that arise, you come across as dictatorial. And a team that feels that they have no voice is less likely to buy in wholeheartedly to any plan being presented.

(Click the link for three steps to effective implementation with your dental team.)

This is why I suggest introducing a “parking lot” for side issues that arise during the course of a team meeting. Have a whiteboard or flipchart handy, and whenever one of these potential sidetracks pops up say something like, “That’s a good point and I do want to make sure we don’t forget to talk about that. Let’s put it on the board. For now, let me just continue with what I was saying...” This way, the person raising the issue gets to see evidence that their contribution has been noted – there it is, in writing for everyone to see – but you get to keep rolling with the main purpose of your talk.

So how and when do you then deal with the “parking lot” issues? You can come back to them at the end of the meeting once you have finished going through your agenda (and you’ll be surprised how many of them no longer seem urgent once everyone has understood all the main points of the meeting and people are interested in wrapping things up). Or, if there are enough significant issues that deserve to be explored more deeply, you can schedule another meeting right then to address them with the attention they deserve. And in the cases that require it, you can even ask a team member to sit down with you one-on-one to discuss their particular issue.

The point is, by taking this approach everyone has their contributions recognized and addressed in a timely, thoughtful and respectful way, while you get to stay pure in your purpose for the meeting.

(Click this link for more dental practice management articles from Imtiaz Manji.)