Way back in 2015, I published a blog post about a creative exercise I used in a staff meeting to discuss an ongoing issue in the office. The issue revolved around staff continually neglecting to keep the exam lanes stocked. Everything came to a head when the doctor reached for alcohol prep pads and exam gloves and discovered she didn’t have any in the exam lane she was using.
How to get the point across to my staff? They had been reminded of this repeatedly but nothing seemed to make it stick. At the following morning’s monthly staff meeting, I asked, "Who makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for their family?" Everyone raised a hand. Then I asked, "Who thinks they can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and pour glass of milk in a minute or less?" Again, everyone raised a hand. I asked for two volunteers and I told them, "Let's time you both and see who can make a PBJ and pour a glass of milk the fastest." I had set up two stations where they could make their sandwiches. "On your mark, get set... GO!"
But at one of the stations, I purposefully ‘forgot’ to stock it with essential items needed for the task: a knife to spread the peanut butter, and a glass in which to pour the milk. As a result, the staff member at that station had to repeatedly run to the staff kitchen to grab supplies, and finished well after her other colleague.
Finally, they understood the point.
Why was this so effective? Three reasons: it was fun, it was memorable, and it was demonstrative.
It was fun: Part of me wanted to simply admonish my staff for what they were doing wrong. I was exasperated, the doctor was angry, and this was something they’d been told before. But rather than simply getting them into a room and telling them what they did wrong, I decided to engage them in a somewhat silly exercise. This makes a person much more engaged and, believe it or not, more open to what you are saying. Laughter is the best way to get someone on your side!
It was memorable: By necessity, a lot of staff meetings are spent going over administrative issues and other business agenda items. Sometimes these things can feel bureaucratic - dare I say even boring! Now, I’m not saying that your staff meetings need to be entertaining - you all are there to perform a job, not be entertained by one another - but when a lesson is more memorable it is far more likely to stick.
It was demonstrative: I got the staff involved in my discussion. I asked for volunteers and I asked them to complete a task in front of their peers. By getting them involved, I made them active, rather than passive, parts of the lesson.
In my consulting, I work with managers and colleagues to develop creative ways of engaging your staff. When something doesn’t seem to be working, all that means is you need to switch up your tactics! Whenever I visit a new clinic or office, I encourage everyone to not be afraid of trying something out of the box.
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