Clinical laboratory meetings are valuable opportunities for laboratory staff and management to come together and discuss ongoing challenges that affect lab operations and patient care. These meetings are also a chance to model your organization's values, cultivate a positive lab culture, and build team spirit by reminding lab staff of the importance of their work to patients.
Often, new lab managers do not receive enough training and support to lead effective lab meetings.
Here are five strategies improve the quality and outcomes of your clinical lab meetings:
1. Define and follow an agenda
One of the most important things a meeting facilitator can do to conduct a successful lab meeting is create an agenda and distribute it ahead of the meeting. This requires setting aside some time to prioritize key issues.
Planning weekly staff meetings may be easy for a lab manager with a relatively small team, but planning an institutional biosafety committee meeting with input from several leaders may take several hours.
“With planning, a thoughtful agenda, and an inclusive approach, you’ll be well on your way to chairing great meetings.”
Though creating a thoughtful meeting agenda requires time and effort, it will likely save time for all attendees by preparing and guiding them through the topics to be discussed. A meeting agenda also helps team members consider how they can contribute to the meeting, such as preparing specific data and/or questions and comments in advance.
A typical agenda should outline discussion topics according to priority, desired outcome, and who is responsible for seeing the topic through to completion. You should also set time limits for each topic to keep the discussion focused and ensure there is enough time for every item on the agenda.
Here is an example clinical lab leaders can use for designing their next agenda:
An agreement about the best clinical hematology analyzer for the lab
Share info and needs, and get feedback
Action items for internal audit
List actions, due date, and the person responsible
List items and get commitment
2. Respect your lab staff’s time
When inviting participants to the clinical lab meeting, think of the minimum number of people needed to achieve your meeting objectives. In addition, clinical lab leaders should encourage participants to keep comments clear and concise and directly related to the topic at hand. This approach will ensure everyone contributes to the discussion while preventing people from going off on a tangent.
An effective technique to guide a focused discussion is to take notes of essential points and mark them as subsequent agenda points. The meeting facilitator might say, "This is beyond what we are here to discuss today. Let me capture it for our next meeting." This way, the leader can acknowledge attendees' contributions while avoiding discussions that compete for time over the agenda.
By ensuring that a meeting doesn't take longer than scheduled, lab leaders demonstrate respect for each team member's time.
3. Create a courteous and inclusive environment
Meeting facilitators should encourage civility and respect for everyone in the group regardless of each person's role or level of expertise. Aim to create an environment where people can express their ideas without fear of criticism or judgment.
To ensure a courteous meeting environment, occasionally remind participants of professional etiquette, including asking participants to silence their smartphones or muting themselves when they are not speaking in a video conference. Facilitators should also encourage attendees to listen empathically and without judgment.
“By ensuring that a meeting doesn't take longer than scheduled, lab leaders demonstrate respect for each team member's time.”
In addition, asking open-ended questions and making all resources visible to remote team members creates an opportunity for everyone to contribute to discussions.
4. Focus on solutions
From acquiring and retaining staff to navigating supply chain disruptions, clinical laboratories face many challenges. When addressing a problem in a meeting, facilitators should help people gain a mutual understanding of the problem and focus on finding solutions to the problem.
For example, when a lab member has committed an error, instead of singling them out and blaming them, focus on finding solutions to the problem as a team to promote trust and collaboration. After brainstorming potential solutions or approaches, ask participants to choose a preferred course of action and contribute to an action plan to solve the problem.
Apps such as Klaxoon, Mentimeter, and Poll Everywhere allow participants to vote during or after the meeting. Using these tools can make it easier to reach a consensus and can help increase staff engagement.
5. Document decisions
Document what was discussed, which decisions were made, and any action items from the meeting and make those notes easily accessible to team members, such as sharing them on a staff intranet portal, group Slack channel, or shared Google folder. Sharing meeting minutes improves accountability and keeps everyone on the same page.
By running efficient meetings, you can establish yourself as a strong leader
Meetings are invaluable for clinical labs—they allow teams to work together while fostering open communication between lab members. However, running a successful clinical lab meeting is more than inviting a group to meet at a particular time and place. Effective meetings need structure, preparation, and ground rules.
With planning, a thoughtful agenda, and an inclusive approach, you’ll be well on your way to chairing great meetings.