Tips to Lead Better Team Meetings This School Year
The meetings you hold with your faculty and staff have the potential to be incredible opportunities to learn and build trust with your team. They offer a regular chance to connect, work through challenges, celebrate milestones, and help elevate concerns in a safe environment.
At a time when educators and school leaders are experiencing a fair amount of overwhelm and stress, staff meetings have become more important than ever. Just as important as making the time for them is ensuring you’re making the best use of everyone’s time.
As a school leader, you’re no stranger to leading meetings—and leading them effectively—but it’s always worth it to take a step back and recognize your own opportunities for professional growth.
The best meetings have a balance of shared leadership, active participation, healthy debate, and consensus. As you’re moving into the school year and getting into the groove of a consistent faculty meeting schedule, here are a few tips to make sure you’re making those meetings effective, intentional, and purposeful to drive meaningful action at your school.
Analyze your own meeting-leading skills
A great first step in making meetings more productive is to look inward. As a school leader, you’re no stranger to leading meetings—and leading them effectively—but it’s always worth it to take a step back and recognize your own opportunities for professional growth.
For example, perhaps there’s an opportunity to distribute a portion of the meeting leadership responsibilities to other members of your faculty or staff. If you have an instructional leadership team (ILT), it might make more sense for a member of the ILT to give that agenda update. Or, if you see a need to brush up on your public speaking skills in order to be a more confident presenter in front of your staff, consider seeking out a consultant to help assist you. Or, if running more well-organized and targeted meetings are your goal, consider a mentor or coach.
The most important reason to analyze your own meeting skills is to understand how your faculty and staff view you as a leader and how you can work to continually improve that relationship.
Create an agenda—and be mindful of schedules
We can’t say it better or more clearly than New Leaders alum Amy Jackson: “No matter how short the meeting, create a written agenda with goals.” Your time—and your teachers’ time—is valuable. Even if your team meeting is at the same time and day every week, taking a moment to set an agenda and send it out at least a day in advance sends a clear signal to your team that you value their time and want them to have the information they need.
Here’s a quick brush-up of what a sample meeting agenda can include:
- The date, time, and location of the meeting
- Agenda items and tentative timing for each discussion
- Any resources or information, such as articles or memos, that will be referenced or that your team should read ahead of time
- Details on speakers or special guests that will be attending the meeting, if applicable
- Questions to encourage advanced reflection on particular topics
If possible, use your meeting time to capitalize on the in-person time with your team. This is most likely the one time each week the majority of your team is together and in one room, so focusing on brainstorming, discussions, and collaboration rather than having people read announcements and information. You want to use this precious time effectively.
Taking a moment to set an agenda and send it out at least a day in advance sends a clear signal to your team that you value their time and want them to have the information they need.
Take adult learning principles into account
Students and adults learn in many different ways, and it’s important to leverage the principles of adult learning we know to be true. For example, adults tend to learn most deeply from experience and reflection. We connect with and rely on stories to make meaning. With this in mind, consider how you’re jumpstarting or shaping conversations at your next meeting. Are you using a story to help shape the reasoning behind a particular decision, or encouraging your team to share their experiences?
Adults also learn best in an environment that’s structured, but still allows for freedom. To that end, think about the ways that you can give your meeting participants a choice. For those on your team who are internal processors and need more time to gather their thoughts, they may find it difficult to get back to you with immediate feedback after they hear about a large initiative or change. Is there a way for them to do so?
Or, perhaps there are staff members with ADHD or team members who are visual learners. With this in mind, is there a built-in break time during longer meetings where people are able to get up and move around? If you’re asking your team to consume information prior to the meeting, are there multiple ways to do so (i.e., a digital article and a podcast link or video) to give participants opportunities to engage in the way they’d prefer?
Adults tend to learn most deeply from experience and reflection. We connect with and rely on stories to make meaning. With this in mind, consider how you’re jumpstarting or shaping conversations at your next meeting.
Focus on eliminating overwhelm through “deimplementation”
Staff meetings are an important forum for not only acknowledging the stress and anxiety that your faculty and staff may be experiencing but actively engaging in how to find solutions to the overwhelm and improve the overall well-being of your team.
Meetings are often full of talk about “implementation”—what initiatives need to be launched or what additional work can be done to improve student outcomes. Instead, center your conversations around what author and education leadership coach Peter Dewitt calls “deimplementation,” where school leaders can ask themselves what can be taken away.
To practice this, ask yourself these questions:
- How do we truly spend our time at meetings? Are there any practices that can be eliminated?
- How many initiatives are we engaged in, and do we need them all?
- What practices can we begin to “deimplement,” and can we eliminate them completely or partially?
- How can implementation help us take control and find a better balance?
In asking these questions, you and your team can work together to decrease the number of low-value practices you’re spending time on, and focus on the high-value practices that make a difference for students—while preserving precious teacher time and energy.
The most important tip: attend meetings as a student first, a leader second
Meetings with your team are an opportunity to keep an open mind (and open ears!) to your faculty and staff’s concerns and questions. Heading into meetings as a student of administration and leadership can lead to more impactful conversations, and stronger relationships with the people you depend on—and those who depend on you.