Superintendent/frontline staff meetings

Meetings designed to exchange information both vertically and horizontally across the department and delivered in a format that strengthens team spirit and fosters morale.

Good for

  • All departments


  • There is a common format: e.g., breakfast with the deputy/executive director.
  • The program builds visibility of senior management; attendees meet with senior management and put names to the faces.
  • It can build understanding of why some decisions are made: attendees see their personal role and their unit’s role, in the big picture.
  • It builds understanding that senior management is aware of issues facing staff.
  • Attendees become acquainted with others in the department and hear the viewpoints of colleagues in other sections.
  • Attendees express their views and alert senior management to issues.
  • Can build team spirit and foster morale.


  • Some say that these sessions weaken middle management, that staff go around their managers to the top.
  • Others counter that staff do not go around middle managers who address – or at least acknowledge – issues raised by staff.
  • Senior management gets involved in operational minutiae, things that middle management is paid to deal with.


This tool has been used in a number of organizations, in both the public and private sectors, with good results.

The meeting is informal; attendees are encouraged to share their views, to raise issues, etc. A typical session would last 45 minutes to an hour and occur on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, quarterly).

The leader has a dual role, as host and as facilitator. They can’t just walk into the room, sit down, and expect conversation to flow. They need to ask open-ended questions, which are difficult to answer with a simple yes or no, and try to draw out attendees who are not forthcoming with their thoughts. If your executive feels awkward hosting these sessions, add a staffer who can moderate.

The number of attendees should be kept small (6–12), so no one feels intimidated. The one steadfast rule is that a no one attends the same session as someone who reports directly to them, again to reduce the intimidation factor. Still, some people may not speak their mind because they suspect their views will could get back to their supervisor/manager and be held against them.

Most often, attendees are randomly selected from across the organization; there is no set topic. Sometimes, there is a common tie between the attendees that forms a “theme” for the meeting. For example, the executive may want grassroots feedback as to how a recent reorganization is affecting operations and client satisfaction.

If the organization is going through change, it is important to approximate where the organization and the attendees are on the change cycle (denial, resistance, negotiation, acceptance).

Next steps