I shared a hard lesson learned early in my working career with my staff last week. Clearly, it has stuck with me for the past twenty years, and since an important meeting with company owners was upon us, I felt it was time to pass that lesson along.
Without going into specific details of the lesson, the cliff noted version is that I attended a meeting with entire executive staff and the new vice president of sales for the company I worked for in 1997. I managed a laboratory and generated all of the testing data for the product we were developing. As the meeting began, the new VP of sales really grilled me about process, policy, and procedure. I was clearly unprepared for the meeting and as I walked out I looked at my boss who was the VP of research and development and said, "I can't believe you let him treat me that way." He looked me back in the eye and said, "Don't ever come to a meeting unprepared again." Since that day, I have never been unprepared for a meeting. It was a tough moment but a very authentic opportunity to learn something.
As I shared this memory, my staff sat and listened. We had been preparing for a very important, pivotal meeting and I kept asking, "Where is your data to back up that statement?" Often, people make sweeping statements based upon perception or one data point of observation. Being able to show history of behavior is critical. So with the lesson shared, they truly understood what was required to convey important information so that the owners could make solid decisions.
We spent about ten hours prepping for these individual meetings. We split the number of owners up so we each had two, wrote up a summary about their clinic and front-office staff performance, and put our big girl pants on and arrived at the meeting. The owners knew we were coming in to give a little talk, but nothing prepared them for what we were all about to do.
One owner at a time, we spent going over past performance, areas in the schedule they could improve, staffing concerns, training opportunities, and we provided copies of policies that are supposed to be followed, which were not being followed. We delivered all of these messages in a positive and supportive manner, listened to their thoughts and concerns, and leveled a playing field that has never happened in prior years. By focusing one-on-one and not in a group setting, we were able to pin-point very specific examples of areas of opportunity, and particularly the areas of positive praise. It was private enough that each owner felt they were the center of the conversation, which was a goal of ours. Very non-confrontational, and also specific to each clinic. The meetings went very well, and we all left knowing we were making a difference, and were ready to help and support. The owners were happily shocked and surprised at how well my staff was prepared, and could easily answer the questions that they had. I really felt that was a "touchdown""
Following the meetings, we've had additional opportunities to show the level of professionalism that the staff have grown into, and the owners have given a level of trust that was also not present in prior years.
If you are getting ready for an important meeting, I would strongly recommend that you take the time to really prepare for that meeting. Be sure you have all of the required elements, and know that your delivery, how you conduct yourself and your confidence will be the most critical components of that meeting.