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Teaming Tips Case 3: Ineffective Meetings | ALiEM Faculty Incubator


Many of you are asked to take a leadership role within your department: managing a research team, joining your administration, or spearheading a clinical effort. It is easy to feel unprepared for these roles, and there are many pitfalls waiting to sabotage your team’s productivity. The ALiEM Faculty Incubator has created a series of 10 case-based teaming problems to provide you with evidence-based advice and solutions for tackling some of the more common problems encountered in our professional team experiences.

Case 3

Your faculty meetings seem to be endless. Most of the faculty are on their computers sending emails or reading the news. It feels like no one is paying attention!

What strategies can you use to improve the efficiency of faculty meetings and engage the faculty in attendance?

Inefficient Meetings

Facilitating an effective meeting is challenging for inexperienced medical faculty, with many potential pitfalls. Management skills are rarely taught during training yet have been identified as practical skills of the highest importance for medical leaders.1

To improve the quality of your meetings, utilize the following 3 strategies to promote meeting engagement and avoid derailment.

Right people, right meeting

Faculty meetings should occur at regular predetermined dates to maximize attendance. The addition of unnecessary staff members will serve as a distracter and increase irrelevant noise.

Set a clear agenda, distribute it beforehand and keep to time and tasks

Prior to the scheduled meeting, ask team members to submit agenda items along with inclusion reasoning and discussion purpose. Distribute the proposed agenda at least 24 hours before the meeting. This provides time for pre-reading and meaningful consideration of proposals.

Make the meeting actionable and adopt an ‘everyone plays’ mentality

The utility of a pre-distributed agenda allows the meeting itself to focus on actions and decisions to move departmental activities forward.  You may energize your typical meeting dynamic by assigning relevant people to specific tasks. This guarantees a variety of speakers and vested interest in the discussion.2

Multimedia Woes

The ubiquitous phenomenon of multimedia multi-tasking has infiltrated through to faculty meetings, including computer use, email maintenance, and social media updates. Doctors often define themselves as masters of multi-tasking, but does this workplace habit adversely influence behaviors in the non-clinical domain?3

Multi-tasking is the ability to perform 2 discrete tasks simultaneously; however, this is only easily undertaken if both tasks are performed employing automatic memory requiring minimal cognitive input. Task switching is alternatively utilized, involving the rapid change from one task to another. These behaviors have a well documented performance decrement impacting on performance and detracting from meeting engagement.4

We propose the following 3 strategies to minimize inattention and distraction:

Utilize social influence

Social influence in organizations is seen when normalization of individual behaviors occurs due to observed behavior in others.5 The meeting chair should be cognizant of this, leading by example, minimizing their own multi-tasking to encourage this behavior within the group and signal the value of attendee’s time and contributions.6

Set ground rules

Understanding the behavioral science behind multi-tasking and task switching should make the decision to enact a faculty meeting ‘devices away’ policy actionable. This will enable a more dynamic and engaged environment, subsequently improving group participation.7


Summarizing serves as a focus tool for key points and ensures team members’ collective understanding and cohesion.8

Case Conclusion

You decide to set new rules at the beginning of the academic year: no laptops open at faculty meeting! You realize you weren’t setting a very good example, so you commit to do the same. You also work with your program coordinator to set the agenda in advance and send it out to all faculty. The next 3 faculty meetings are much more productive and the faculty seem re-energized!
Williams S. What skills do physician leaders need now and in the future? Physician Exec. 2001;27(3):46-48. [PubMed]
Coaches Council F. 14 Tips For Leading A More Effective Meeting. Forbes. Published June 30, 2016. Accessed September 12, 2018.
Kee R, Knott J, Dreyfus S, Lederman R, Milton S, Joe K. One hundred tasks an hour: an observational study of emergency department consultant activities. Emerg Med Australas. 2012;24(3):294-302. [PubMed]
Yin S, Wang T, Pan W, Liu Y, Chen A. Task-switching Cost and Intrinsic Functional Connectivity in the Human Brain: Toward Understanding Individual Differences in Cognitive Flexibility. PLoS One. 2015;10(12):e0145826. [PubMed]
Stephens KK, Davis J. The Social Influences on Electronic Multitasking in Organizational Meetings. M. 2009;23(1):63-83. doi:10.1177/0893318909335417
If You Multitask During Meetings, Your Team Will, Too. Harvard Business Review. Published January 25, 2018. Accessed September 12, 2018.
Pigeon Y, Khan O. Leadership Lessons: Tools for effective team meetings–How I learned to stop worry and love my team. Association of American Medical Colleges. Published 2018. Accessed September 12, 2018.
Perkins RD. How executive coaching can change leader behavior and improve meeting effectiveness: An exploratory study. C. 2009;61(4):298-318. doi:10.1037/a0017842
Rebecca Shaw, MBBS, FACEM

Rebecca Shaw, MBBS, FACEM

Medical Education Fellow
Department of Emergency Medicine
Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service
Queensland, Australia
Rebecca Shaw, MBBS, FACEM

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Carly Silvester, MBBS

Carly Silvester, MBBS

Medical Education Fellow
Department of Emergency Medicine
QEII Hospital
Brisbane, Australia
Carly Silvester, MBBS

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Brandon Stein, MD

Brandon Stein, MD

Assistant Program Director
Department of Emergency Medicine
New York-Presbyterian/Queens
Brandon Stein, MD

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