Annex F: Tips for facilitating meetings

Given that some staff may need to be (re)engaged into the workforce, while others may have minimal changes to their workload, direct communication is key. While options for face-to-face communications is preferred, given the current posture, it is also limited. Do your research on your team’s preference for meetings moving forward e.g. MS Teams, Zoom, teleconference, etc. In sensitive times like this, when staff are facing a change situation, you can facilitate a constructive conversation and help staff understand the changes by following the tips below.

Be prepared. Understand the policy, local implications and other applicable materials so that you can respond to questions. When you don’t know the answer, promise to find out and follow up.

  1. Set objectives and manage expectations
    1. The most powerful tool for setting the scope of a discussion is to explain objectives and manage expectations at the beginning of the session. Be clear about the objectives of the meeting and be sure to include what you will be talking about and what you won’t be talking about. For instance, during a business plan discussion, you won’t be talking about specific operational changes until later.
  2. Explain the question and feedback process
    1. Let your staff know up front how and when you would like questions to be asked. Explain that you will find the answers to questions that you can’t answer right away, and deliver them back to staff within an established timeframe.
  3. Avoid secrets, surprises, hype and empty promises
    1. Staff appreciate candid communication. Yet sometimes in the early days of a change, communications are very restricted, and you may or may not be able to share all of the information.
      Staff are often frustrated by the lack of information at the beginning, and typically feel that the leadership knows the answers, but just aren’t sharing them. Anxiety and distrust can follow if you are not careful.
    2. Therefore, be candid, and share what you do know if you are able to do so, and what you don’t know. The purpose of your meeting is not to be able to provide answers to every question, but rather to provide the reasons for the change, the expected measures in place, the immediate impact on staff, what is expected of staff and when further information will be available. Asking for their patience and understanding through this period of uncertainty will help ease the tension.
  4. Avoid defensiveness and acknowledge concerns
    1. Try to avoid being defensive – not everyone will like or agree with these changes. Keep your tone light. Answer questions objectively with the information provided and record any valid discussion items that should be brought back to your supervisor. Show that you empathize with the situation and understand individual situations and its impacts.
  5. Record the key points of the meeting
    1. All feedback – whether it is positive or negative – is good feedback. It helps the leadership team to continuously improve approaches to communications. Recording your staff concerns, questions, any key themes and overall morale helps corporate communications monitor communications efforts. Sharing the outcomes of the meeting in writing with your staff will also make sure that nothing was misconstrued.
  6. Be visible and credible
    1. It is one thing to say that you are available for questions and discussion, and another to always have a virtual “closed door”/not allow space in your schedule for staff meetings. Try to be available and approachable for your staff. Reach out to them with team meetings, one-on-one conversations and regular emails that ask key questions and encourage their feedback.
    2. Questions could be as simple as:
      • How are you feeling about the process so far?
      • What are your top three concerns as we start the change?
      • Is there anything you’d like to talk about in our team meetings that we haven’t covered – or talked enough about?
      • Have you discovered anything about the change that you think would be interesting to our team?
  7. Understand your staff’s different needs
    1. As a supervisor, it is your responsibility to be equipped to respond to and guide staff through different scenarios. Staff and personnel will all be experiencing different realities and working situations. Largely, staff will either be:
      • On standby from home (urged to stay healthy);
      • Coming into the workplace (returning from home or continuing workplace work);
      • Beginning/continuing remote work. 
    2. It is essential to support staff within each scenario, and allow them to express any feelings of concern or feedback they have.

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Meeting Guide

Determine a meeting schedule that fits the needs of your team (weekly, biweekly, etc.). For Defence Team members working remotely, look into digital platforms that could be leveraged to host your meetings (Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Teleconference, etc.).

To prepare for your meetings, complete the five sections below.

Current Situation

Using the DM/CDS business resumption directive and the DM’s message of May 22 as a guide, explain in your own words the department (and L1/Commands) current situation. Talk about where we are now and what people are talking about at DND and in your group/command in the context of Business Resumption/COVID-19. In turn, ask the individual about their situation, and whether there are any social factors impacting their return to work/remote work.

  1. Priorities
    1. Explain the government’s priorities as well as those of the department (i.e. emphasis on PHM, PPE, physical distancing, workplace measures e.g. sanitizer stations, etc.), Business Resumption Plans, and how these relate to your group.
  2. Current Environment
    1. Touch on the current environment in which we’re operating. Talk about how these affect our way forward. Be honest that the current situation is continuously evolving, and there are processes in place to respond to any changes of the current posture.
  3. Tell the Story
    1. Talk about the department’s Business Resumption process, and what the outcomes are. What 3 things you’d like staff to take away or remember from this?
  4. What does it mean?
    1. Define what the outcomes mean for your Branch. What is the best strategy to return to a version of “business as usual?” What changes are expected/imminent? Are your staff directly or indirectly impacted? What’s next?

Note that conversations and checklists will vary depending on the different realities of staff (staff remaining home on standby, staff transitioning from home to workplace or remaining at workplace, staff conducting full time remote work). 

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