Recently, we talked about the importance of autonomy and culture as they relate to the daily operations of a successful organization. Giving employees a reasonable amount of discretion in how they conduct their work fosters an atmosphere of teamwork, allows for creativity, demonstrates faith in your staff, and shows respect for their ideas. Yet, even in the most forward-thinking of companies, that sense of empowerment is often left at the conference room door.
Staff meetings. From a management perspective, this is a time to present new ideas to the staff, update them on current projects, make announcements, and explain policies. From a staff perspective, however, these meetings are often viewed as time to file in, sit down, be quiet, and receive a lecture. In other words: a complete waste of time.
So how is a company to bring its commitment to staff empowerment, to a collaborative corporate culture, into the conference room? Simple. Stop holding conferences and start having conversations.
Why Conversations Work
Even when the topic is relevant to every employee in the room, people tend to tune out during long presentations because they feel uninvolved in the process. They feel, perhaps more acutely than at any other time in their work, that they are subordinates whose input is not valued. This feeling stems from the fact that in a lecture, information only flows one way: from management to staff. But when employees are actively engaged in a conversation, they pay attention and participate. They offer new ideas and improve on one another’s suggestions. They collaborate. They communicate. They create.
In a conversation, employees are encouraged to speak and share. In other words, they are empowered, and this fosters a corporate culture of collaboration in which employees feel that not only are they allowed some autonomy in front of the customer, they are truly valued as integral parts of the overall organization, even behind closed doors.
Lose the Laser Pointer
If you’re new to conversation-style meetings, the first step is pretty simple: sit down. Sit down, and ask an open-ended question. Facilitate the conversation while encouraging employees to share their ideas and observations. Take notes. Listen to your staff. Remember, these are the people who make your product and serve your customers. They know where the opportunities for streamlining and expanding truly lie. Doesn’t it make sense to hear what they have to say?