Transforming standing meetings into dynamic forums

Many leaders manage their offices around a routine. Often, that includes a weekly or monthly check-in to chart progress, identify next steps and answer concerns that arise over a fixed period of time. There's nothing wrong with these meetings: Quite frequently, they lend structure and stability to the workflow on a team, and create forums in which individuals can speak up about pressing matters. 

However, employees who stick around through dozens or even hundreds of these meetings know that they can become a little stale. With fixed agendas, your subordinates may feel inclined to tune out of the standing office meeting. Managers sometimes conduct standing meetings as a one-way conversation, with occasional input from team members. Here are a few ways to keep employees engaged:

Ask direct questions. "Any questions?" doesn't count. If you come across a murky area of a project, call on the best person best qualified to fill in the gaps. Opening the meeting as a dialogue will make employees feel valuable, and uncover important information to move ahead. 

Assign homework. If employees know they're responsible for bringing intel to the conference room table, they're more likely to prepare and engage in the proceedings. Circulate a memo ahead of time with an agenda and expectations, so that disengaged workers can't phone it in. 

Change the lineup. You may be the head of your department, or even your company, which is why it's important to yield the floor to fresh voices. Ask a subordinate to chair the meeting, or a colleague to present the work his department has done in a given quarter. Your employees can't resent listening to you drone on about the same thing each week if you don't drone on about the same thing each week.