Do you attend your teams’ daily start-of-shift meetings?  Are you getting good value for the time and money your folks’ spend there each day? Whether you call it a tailgate meeting, toolbox talk, daily stand-up or team huddle — the goal is the same: share information, set the plan for the day and ensure everyone is ready for work.   When done well, these meetings are efficient, engaging and energizing. They ensure communication from the top, raise concerns from the frontlines and get everyone on the same page as the day begins. When done poorly, these meetings are dull, disengaging and demoralizing. Memos are read aloud, the same old safety moment is repeated yet again and everyone stands with arms crossed and eyes glazed waiting for this check-the-box exercise to be over. Your daily start-of-shift meetings are a “ritual” — they communicate what matters to and is expected by your organization. With just a bit of attention and effort, they can be the cornerstone of your employee engagement, culture change and performance improvement efforts.

Assessing your daily meetings

Are your daily meetings sending the message you want your employees to hear? Here are four steps you can start today to make sure: Step 1: Get your fellow leaders on-board.  Although you can do this alone, it’ll work better if you do it with a group.  Gather the people who manage the folks who lead your daily meetings.  If foremen lead daily meetings, then gather up the General Foremen or Superintendents. The assignment for these folks: observe every daily meeting at least once; speak to every person who leads a daily meeting; report back ready to discuss what you saw and heard. Don’t go to the meetings as a group – that’ll cause too much upset. Instead, work alone or in pairs.  Agree to a timeframe: we will reconvene on such-and-such date having observed every team at least once. Step 2:  Observe the meetings.  Arrive early. Greet the foreman leading the meeting and explain that you’re just sitting in.  If at all possible, don’t draw attention to yourself.  As the meeting gets going, pay attention to the following:
  • How does the meeting start and end? Does it start and end on time?  What are the first and last topics discussed?
  • Who does most of the talking? Can everyone hear?  Is there participation or interaction during the meeting?
  • What’s the mood or energy like during the meeting? Are folks ‘present’ or are they sitting back waiting for the meeting to be over.  Are they energized and engaged?
  • What are the key messages delivered during the meeting? Is the message clear and concise, or muddled and confused?
  • If this meeting was your only experience of this organization, what conclusions would you draw about how this organization does business?
Step 3:  Speak to the person who led the meeting.  Foremen are usually busy having follow-up conversations immediately after the meeting ends – so hang around a bit, and when the time seems right ask the following questions:
  • How’d that meeting go for you? Better, worse, or about the same as usual?
  • What’s your goal or intention for your daily meetings?
  • How do you prepare for the meeting?
  • What were the best tailgate meetings you’ve seen during your career?What made them so good?
  • What can I or the other bosses do to help you make these meetings go better?
Step 4:  Reconvene with your fellow leaders and discuss what you saw.
  • What stood out? Any surprises – good or bad?
  • What’s the messageour meetings are sending – not just what gets said but how it gets said?
  • Who were the ‘bright spots’? Which foremen (or meeting leaders) stood out as better than the rest?  What did they dothat the other meeting leaders didn’t?  (Note: focus on the actions the best performers take, and not on their personal qualities!)
  • What do we, as leaders, want to do to improve these meetings? (See our article on Leading Effective Start of Shift Meetings for ideas.)
Simply demonstrating interest will make a difference.  When team members see you paying attention to these meetings, they’ll begin to pay more attention themselves.  Just asking questions about the meetings often leads to improvement. Here’s a pro-tip:  ask yourself, “How am Ipart of this situation? What is it that my fellow leaders and I are doing that influences how these meetings are run each day?”  You may find that the foremen and superintendents are following your lead, and running meetings precisely the way they think you want them run! Your organization’s daily meetings – your ‘rituals’ – send a powerful message to your employees.  This is your chance to set the tone each morning, and ensure folks start their day with focus and professionalism.  Don’t default to business-as-usual: give these meetings the attention they deserve. 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