It’s up to foremen to ensure their crews start the day right.  Most companies have start-of-shift meetings to share information, assign work, and make sure everyone is ready to go. Unfortunately, these meetings are often dull and disengaging. Teams stand around while the foreman reads from his or her clipboard; the foreman asks if anyone has any questions – no one ever does.  Folks don’t switch ‘on’ until the meeting ends.  Sound familiar? You can do better.  With a little effort, you can set your team up for success as they start their day.

Three prerequisites for great start-of-shift meetings

Preparation: Effective daily meetings require preparation — and clarity of intention.
  • Gather your thoughts before your crew arrives — what are one or two key points you need to make today?
  • Choose a good location. Conduct the meeting as close to the work area as possible — but avoid locations with too much noise, traffic or distractions.
  • Set clear expectations — team members who arrive late or engage in side-talk undermine the effectiveness of the meeting for everyone. It is your job to call folks out for this type of behavior.
Content: Preparation is important, but the content of the meeting must be meaningful and relevant.
  • Always start with safety. Share information about incidents and near misses from the day before; ask team members, “how can we avoid that happening again?” If yesterday was a safe day, ask, “what did we do right?… who spoke up or helped a co-worker be more-safe?” Starting the meeting with safety reinforces your organization’s value for a commitment to worker safety above all else.
  • Introduce newcomers and visitors. Invest a few minutes and ask new folks to introduce themselves and share something about their interests outside of work. When team members know one another they are more likely to speak up and support each other during the workday.
  • Share announcements. If you have to read something aloud to your audience, be sure to follow-up with a few words of your own. Re-state the key points, and ask team members to comment on what they heard: “what was your take-away from that?”, “what’s the key thing to remember?”
  • Review progress made yesterday. This doesn’t need to be detailed — but say something about how yesterday went to demonstrate that the work the team does matters — that other people notice the work being done here. 
  • Review the plan for today. Again, this needn’t be exhaustive — especially if you’ll be giving detailed instructions to individuals later– but say enough about the goals for the day that the team understands their work matters — that other people are counting on them doing their part.
  • Ask, “how can we help each other today?” This is more effective than asking, “does anyone need anything?” or “does anyone have any questions?” Encourage people to offer help to each other, and praise people for speaking up and requesting support from others.
  • Close with safety. It is vital, especially at the end of the meeting to talk about safety in personal terms. Avoid mentioning rules and compliance — instead focus on the hazards team members will face and the effect an injury would have on them and their families.
Style The way a meeting is conducted can overcome (or undermine) preparation and content. The best meetings engage people.
  • Ask good questions. When we ask ‘closed’ questions — ones require only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ — the team will usually give whichever answer will get the meeting over sooner. “Does anyone have anything to add?”… no. “Do you understand everything I just said?”… yes. ‘Open’ questions require people to say something, “When went well yesterday?”… “How is someone likely to be injured today?” When we get people talking, we require them to think… and increase their level of engagement and personal responsibility.
  • Let others do the talking. Even the most engaging speakers lose their audiences’ attention after a few minutes. Re-capture people’s attention by sharing speaking duties. If you lead the safety portion of the meeting, ask someone else to read the day’s announcements, and so on.
  • Balanced feedback. It’s okay to say, “We didn’t do well yesterday… we must do better.” Hearing that message makes the praise, when it comes, more impactful. But if all your team hears from your is criticism, they will tune you out.
  • Laughter is good. We want our teams focused at the start of the shift, but sharing a joke or some good natured ribbing is a great way to build camaraderie and improve the morale. If humor isn’t your strong suit, ask someone else to help. Giving the ‘class clown’ the responsibility for getting the crew to share a laugh is a great way to channel their behavior in a more constructive direction.
Your daily meetings are ‘rituals’ — the things we talk about and how we talk communicates what matters to you and how we expect people to behave. If you want your teams to be engaged, energized and focused, start your day off right with a meeting that matters. Interested in learning more? Ready to make your daily meetings matter? We’re ready to help.   About the author: Andy Erickson is a principal and CTO at Humanus Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in people-centric leadership. He can be reached at aerickson@humanus-solutions.com www.humanus-solutions.com 

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