Tips for Successful Team Meetings

September 6, 2018
Carolyn Shadle, PhD

Dr. Shadle earned her PhD in interpersonal and organizational communication from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She writes and has trained veterinary professionals at numerous national and international conferences through Interpersonal Communication Services.

John L. Meyer, PhD

As the saying goes, teamwork makes the dream work. Here are some tips for running successful team meetings and boosting morale at your veterinary practice.

The question “How is your team doing?” should never leave a veterinary professional at a loss for words. Here are a few possible answers to this important question:

  • “We’re doing very well. Our morale is high!”
  • “We’re improving!”
  • “Fairly well.”
  • “Not so well. We’ve got problems.”
  • “Terribly! We’ve got major problems we cannot seem to overcome. Morale is in the pits.”

Staff members should be capable of categorizing the practice team according to answers 1 to 5 above—and they should have a good rationale for their choice. Two elements related to team meetings will ensure that you get answer #1. First, use meeting time to share important information about protocols and procedures, Second, give team members the freedom to be transparent and discuss problems and concerns. It’s this second element that proves to be the most difficult.


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Make Time for Problem Solving

In his book Building Team Power: How to Unleash the Collaborative Genius of Teams for Increased Engagement, Productivity and Results, Thomas A. Kayser urges teams to spend a lot of time on problem solving. He outlines these steps:

  • Define or select the problem.
  • Analyze the problem.
  • Generate potential solutions.
  • Select and plan for a solution.
  • Implement the solution.
  • Evaluate the solution.

Be Transparent

Your team members will find that meetings are not a waste of time if ample time is spent attempting to solve problems within the practice. Dedicating this time indicates that your practice is committed to continual improvement and is willing to examine problems—big and small, general and specific, individual and practice-wide.

Team meetings are a good time to establish a culture of continual improvement, and a climate of support and acceptance. Begin by assuming that all team members make mistakes from time to time and all organizations have problems. It’s only when mistakes and problems are concealed or shamed that the team suffers.

Initiate a Boo-boo Award

Take an idea from one practice that makes it easy to discuss mistakes and problems—the “Boo-boo Award.” At each meeting, team members are encouraged to reveal their “goof.” Those who share a mistake they’ve made are rewarded with a gift card for a local restaurant or store. Besides affirming team members despite their mistakes, this practice reinforces that no one is perfect, and everyone can learn from mistakes.

Use Team Meetings for Improvement

Here are some additional guidelines for running team meetings:

  • Develop an agenda for every meeting that leaves time for problem solving. Let it be known that complaints can and will be discussed at the meeting.
  • Look for input from team members when developing the meeting agenda. Ask members to report on a topic or introduce the discussion. People tend to support things they help to create.
  • Allow for socializing and celebrating. Your agenda need not be strictly business. If some team members need introducing to the group or someone is celebrating a birthday or anniversary, include time for such social functions.
  • Have someone take notes on problems, explorations, solutions offered, and business left unfinished.
  • Distribute meeting notes before the next meeting so that unfinished business can be tended to. This provides continuity and forward motion on items that should not be overlooked or forgotten.
  • In addition to discussing problems, use team meetings to recognize and reinforce good work by staff members. Remember the rule: Reprimand in private; reward in public. Team meetings are a good place to commend team members for their good service.

If you follow these tips, the next time someone asks how your team is doing, you’ll be able to answer with an emphatic “We’re doing very well! Morale is high!”