In order for any group or project to be successful, the ability to organize effective meetings is vital. This holds especially true for jail administrators, because sheriffs and staff alike rely on them for guidance and leadership. When you are responsible for the welfare of correctional officers and inmates, getting everyone on the same page is paramount.

That doesn’t mean your discussions have to be meticulously planned months in advance, and it certainly doesn’t mean they have to be long, drawn-out affairs, but there are a couple of key objectives to consider before you call any meeting “complete.”

Optimizing your Meetings

When organizing a timeline for a meeting, there’s an important rule to keep in mind: not too little, not too much. Turns out Goldilocks may have been onto something, as it is wise to find a time frame that is “just right” for whatever subject matter you wish to cover. While it’s important to make sure no content is left behind, so is brevity. By making sure the meeting is not too long but also not too short, a leader can ensure that they don’t lose their group’s attention.

In order to accomplish this, preparation is key. A good way to start planning a meeting is to create a checklist of topics you wish to cover. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Using the checklist and the principles behind it will ensure that you’ve covered all your bases—and that you won’t be wasting anyone’s time (including your own).” For jail administrators, centering a meeting around a single purpose (like contraband reduction) is a great way to stay on track.

Questions and Anwsers

Is there is a genuine need for this meeting? That’s always the first question on everyone’s mind, so you better have a good rebuttal. If a correctional facility’s communication systems are effective, messages can be delivered via traditional channels like email. However, if a facility has weak communication practices, jail administrators may need to host a meeting just to implement the proper strategies. A meeting about how to conduct future meetings, in essence—and nothing on Earth is less productive.

After the purpose of your meeting is established, you need to introduce your call-to-action. A call-to-action can be a command—check this inmate’s cell, move that detainee here—but that doesn’t always work in every situation. Sometimes, it’s much more effective for the group to arrive at a conclusion naturally. Telling subordinates what to do may be easy in the short term, but if you want them invested in your big ideas, everyone needs to reach the same conclusions together, as a result of dialogue.

Give and take, pros and cons, questions and answers; that’s what a great meeting is made of. Most of the time, the people working under you will provide excellent insights and think of things you never considered, which is why you hired them in the first place. By the time everyone stands up from the meeting, the group should have arrived at the same idea, even if they took different routes to get there.

A Simpler Solution

Generally, there are no non-important roles in a jail, but according to the US Department of Justice, “the [jail] administrator has the most critical role in implementing the direct supervision principles, fully integrating them into operations and sustaining them over time.” It can be a nightmare to update inmates and faculty on procedures and regulations, but it doesn’t have to be. Face-to-face meetings are effective because they congregate a target audience in one area to relay the same message to everyone. They can be even more effective when combined with informational material spread throughout the workplace, like flyers or digital signage.

By preparing a specific plan, formulating a checklist prior to the meeting, and leaving plenty of room for dialogue, jail administrators are can see positive results when it comes to getting their point across. Organization and structure are important parts of any institution, and face-to-face, sit-down meetings are the golden ticket when it comes to implementing these elements. Although meetings have been largely stigmatized for being inefficient, they are still one of the most effective organizational tools available, if they’re used with prudence.

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