Actions to take: Set out a 5-minute timeslot each morning to update your staff about the goings-on of the day. Take 10 minutes beforehand to think of topics and prepare yourself for this meeting. After your staff gets used to the meeting, begin integrating them into the information sharing.
One of my pre-management jobs was as a customer service desk employee for a public library. One day, a maintenance team showed up out of the blue. They explained that they would be working on the HVAC system. They needed to set up a perimeter to access the ceiling in one corner of the library, and they'd be at it for a few hours. Their work blocked a pretty significant portion of the children's picture book collection. Worse than that, the maintenance team was working in the exact spot where we did our "read to a dog" program for kids every week.
None of us at the front desk knew anything about this maintenance work. When we got a break in the stream of customers and went back to ask the manager, it turns out she had known about it since the previous Monday. It had slipped her mind to tell us.
Employees complain that they never have a clue what is going on. The complaint is usually justified. Perhaps the easiest way to eliminate this frustration is the daily morning brief. Choose a time in the first two hours of the day for a 5-minute all-hand meeting each day. If you are a customer-facing organization, 10 minutes before opening is the perfect time—5 minutes for the meeting, 5 minutes to get ready to unlock the doors. In the daily brief, give your team all the information they need to be prepared for the day.
Here are the sorts of things you should prepare to talk about at the daily brief:
- Anything that violates the typical routine. Maintenance work, promotional events, important meetings, etc. Don't let your employees get caught off guard like we did in the anecdote above.
- Guests to the workspace. Especially visits from anyone higher up on the chain of command. You don't want your front-line staff giving blank stares when your boss's boss shows up.
- An outline of your day. Let your team know when you have meetings, when you are free, when you are busy with your own work, any times you will be away from the office, etc. If they want to talk to you, this will let them know how and when to find you. If someone shows up looking for you, they can respond confidently.
- Information about others' workloads: Are folks out of the office, say for vacation? Give a quick reminder to the rest of the team about how long they'll be gone. Does someone have a project that is coming to a head this week? Have them give an overview and ask whether they could use a hand in any way. (note: you may want to prewire this with the employee the first several times, until it becomes routine and expected. That avoids putting them on the spot.)
- Information from staff meetings. The daily brief is an excellent place to reiterate information or get new perspectives after staff have had more time to think. Did you leave staff pondering a discussion topic during last week's meeting? The daily morning brief is a good place to informally check up on new thoughts.
- Information from emails. Ditto the above regarding reiterating information. Especially new things and things with deadlines. Required training from HR is a great candidate here. As we've mentioned before, if you tell a person something 5 times, they'll claim they heard it once. The daily morning brief is an easy way to get those repetitions in.
- Recognition/Praise for employees. Did someone successfully wrap a major project? Hit their 5-year work anniversary? For big things, this won't be the only way you recognize them, but it is one place to do it.
- Share a bit of personal information. Did you or another team member recently become a grandparent? Run a marathon over the weekend? Come back from vacation? Big personal accomplishments or life events are often worth sharing. (Note: if your sharing others' information, proceed with caution. Make sure you know your team well enough to be sure they want to have the information shared).
- "Fun" stuff: Asking "desert island" questions, doing a tour of each staff member's workspace, and other getting-to-know-you activities can also be doing during the daily brief. Use sparingly. Some members of your team will love having these things sprinkled in from time to time. When this sort of thing becomes the primary purpose of a meeting, most people resent it.
When average bosses institute a daily meeting, it is usually a huge drag for the employees. It feels perfunctory and performative. It is as though the boss heard one day that they're supposed to do it "for teambuilding" and gave it no further thought before launching in. Cover the topics above each morning, and you will avoid that pitfall. Your employees will get useful information out of the brief and come to appreciate them.
Here are a few more tips for conducting your daily brief effectively:
- Same time every day. This is a no-brainer. If you're going to have a meeting every day, people need to know exactly when it is happening. You don't want to spend 15 minutes letting everyone know when your 5-minute meeting is going to happen.
- Always 5 minutes. The brief is brief. Plan your list of topics to hit 5 minutes every time. Keeping it to the same amount of time will give your employees the confidence that they know what they're in for.
- Spend 10 minutes prepping. You don't need a lot of time to prepare this meeting. But you do need to take time. Take 10 minutes writing your list and thinking through exactly how to say it. Don't skimp on this time. Make sure you are remembering all the things worth noting for the day's events.
- Delegate where possible. Initially, you will do virtually all the talking in these briefs. Over time, integrate others. Get the rest of the time used to the idea of sharing information about their work.
A final point to wrap up this post. The daily morning brief is not just for on-site teams. If anything, it is more important to do when your team is remote because there are fewer opportunities to naturally pick up on what is happening with others.
When your employees have a clear sense of what you are doing with your day and what their coworkers are doing, everything works more smoothly. The team is less likely be caught off guard, interrupted with surprise issues, or miss important milestones. Whatever the composition of your team, do a daily morning brief.
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