Optometry Practice Owner Resources

The Most Important Thing To Bring To Your Next Staff Meeting: A Bagel

Bethany Fishbein, OD

bagel with coffee in a staff meeting

Bagels in the Boardroom


This was an accidental discovery for me.

It was so long ago that I can’t even remember what exactly I was listening to, but it was about having more dynamic staff meetings.  

It’s a common thing for a practice owner to tell us that they hate having meetings or have stopped having them all together because they’re frustrated that their staff members never seem to have much to say or contribute any new ideas.

When we observe staff meetings, it becomes pretty quickly obvious why that occurs.  Typically, we will see the doctor share a problem and ask for a solution.  If a staff member tentatively offers a suggestion, it’s almost immediately met with something like “Oh we tried that before” or “No, that’s not it.”  Further discussion with the practice owner reveals that often they had already figured out the solution themselves and were just asking the question to staff so that they “felt like they were contributing”  (another pet peeve of mine and a separate blog post for another day)

Anyway, whatever I had listened to (I think it was a leadership podcast) talked about the importance of asking a question and giving the other person in the conversation time to respond. Sounds easy, right?  But it’s not.  Many entrepreneurs (including me) have brains that go a million miles an hour, and we’re ready with the next thought or response before the person we’re talking to even get their words out, and it’s hard to slow down.  

Shortly after gaining this information, I had a meeting with my administrator Danielle, and for whatever reason, there were bagels in the office that day, and given that I can’t resist a bagel, I had one in my hand.  I had been trying to figure out something – and I told her what I was trying to figure out, and then took a big bite of the bagel (it’s hard to take small bites of New Jersey bagels)

She didn’t say anything right away.  And in my head, I’m starting to answer my own question but I can’t say anything because I have too much bagel in my mouth, so I am forced to pause.  And lo and behold, after a few moments of quiet that never would have happened had it not been for the bagel, Danielle came up with a really good solution to the problem, which led to a productive conversation during which time I kept eating the bagel (more intentionally now that I realized the power it held).

So here are my bagel-related meeting tips:

  1. Go into a meeting open, without the “right” answer in mind.  The point of meeting with others you trust is to come up with something better together than any of you could deliver on your own. Open does not mean unprepared – You’ll want to know your  question, relevant background information, and share any of your initial thoughts or potential solutions, and then step back and give them room to respond.
  2. You’ve had more time to think about this than they have – which means they may need some time to process it before speaking.  If you’re comfortable with silences, great, but if this is something you struggle with like I do…
  3. Bring a bagel.  Ask a question and take a large bite.  Let the power of the pumpernickel work its magic.

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