Really Mean: When Staff Meetings are Quiet

If I were to describe what Hell might look like, it’s a really long meeting about several things that I care very little about. I have to go to this meeting, so I’m just going to be quiet and try to get through it…but it NEVER ends! So, that’s one more reason to be thankful for the grace of Jesus in my life.

I’ve actually had the privilege of being in several really exciting meetings where everyone was on task and cared deeply about the subject of the meeting…those are awesome! However, meetings that have one person talking the whole time are the worst. No one likes to go to those and no one likes to lead those.

Do You wonder why no one speaks up and helps you make decisions? Do you muse into the night about your staff’s nasty habit of waiting for you to tell them what to do before they do anything at all? Are you surrounded by “yes men” who agree with you no matter what? It could be that you have some serious introverts that just need some serious laser tag in their lives, stat!  It could be something else. It could be you.

Here are five things your staff’s silence and passivity could really mean:

They are quiet because your meetings lack focus and direction.

I actually blogged about how to run a great meeting already, so go check it out and see if your meetings cut it. If they are unfocused, staff can start to feel like parents trying to rope a hyperactive 7 year old running full blast through a Chuck-E-Cheese while high on pixie stix. (Seriously though, don’t you feel like the whole place was sprayed down with soda? I mean, why is EVERYTHING sticky in there? I blame the mouse.)

Staff sometimes go dark and hold back because they are exhausted from trying to keep up with you. They are just trying to get through it, and if they don’t say anything, maybe you won’t chase the bunnies again, causing the meeting to go even longer.

They are quiet because you are not a good listener.

Are you a really driven person? Task/results oriented? Big dreamer? Me too. I bet you’ve had an idea before and brought it up in a meeting, only to have others try and change it or tweak it. How stupid of them, right? Don’t they know you’ve been thinking about this longer than they have?!

Sometimes leaders get really passionate about their ideas instead of hearing their staff out, they get defensive instead. If that has happened, your staff will learn quickly that if they want to change your mind about something, it’s going to take a fight, and they may start feeling like the fight just isn’t worth it.

So many good ideas are shot down before they become great ideas simply because they aren’t the leaders’ ideas.

They are quiet because they are overwhelmed.

Flying under the radar in meetings usually means you can come out of the meeting with fewer assignments. If your staff feel so overwhelmed with their own ministry, then the last thing they want is to be handed something else.

It’s like comedian Jim Gaffigan says about fatherhood, “Imagine you’re drowning…and someone hands you a baby.”

If your staff members feel this way, you may need to intervene somehow and get them some help. Watch out for those who use their exhaustion as a badge of honor so that others see them as a huge asset, but if you can alleviate stress and busyness for your staff, you should try.

They are quiet because they may not need to be there.

The worship pastor may not need to be at the fall fest planning meeting. The youth pastor may not need to be in the meeting about putting up security cameras in the preschool hall.

You’ve probably been in meetings before where you’re asking yourself, “Why am I here?” Don’t create meetings like that for your staff. Their time is valuable too. If they are only needed for the first half of the meeting, then let them go when you’re done. Organize your meetings around the needs of the subject, not the titles. “Staff meeting” doesn’t have to mean “all the staff meeting.”

Besides, with all of the easy ways to communicate these days, send them the bullet points after the meeting to keep them up to speed and be done with it. They’ll thank you for it. Because, just like a creepy dude in the women’s bathroom, they just don’t need to be there. (Too soon?)

They are quiet because they do not trust you or each other.

It’s a really sad situation to be in, but I can remember feeling this way in meetings. There was one person on staff whom I had shared confidential personal information with who then told another staff member. When I heard about it, any trust I had for this person was immediately gone.

From then on, I was careful about what I let that staff person know about my personal opinions or about what was going on with me professionally.

I’ve also seen employees so terrified to make a mistake that they would rather do nothing than risk failure. Employers who show disgusted frustration or openly mock employees for mistakes, teach them that the worst thing you could do is be imperfect. So they shut down. Nobody likes to play games that are impossible to win.

If your staff are unwilling to throw new ideas out or challenge the status quo, take care that it’s not because you have to be the coolest person in the room. They’ll let you sit on your T-bird while blasting AC/DC before school, but your whole ministry will suffer for it. So let’s let the worship pastor go back to being the coolest person in the room and start hearing some good ideas in staff meeting again, shall we? (Find out just HOW cool he is here!)

So that’s at least five things it could mean if your staff are quiet in meetings. What would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments section!

PS: Have a great fourth of July! Be safe blowing things up! Or be a little dangerous and awesome like this guy

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