Whether it’s an all-company gathering, a department meeting or even a one-to-one conversation with the boss, most of us head in to employee meetings with a combined sense of obligation, skepticism, trepidation and boredom; and an overall belief this will be yet another waste of good work time. The problem is not the attendees’ attitudes. The problem is that meeting organizers and presenters – and that’s typically company leadership – don’t take time to plan meaningful gatherings.
Leaders have to shake it up. They’ve got to match their presentations with what we’ve come to expect in the world – a fast pace, multi-media and a chance to interact. If you’re a leader that has no idea how to do that – and in fact, even if you do know how to do that – one of the ways to refresh and invigorate meetings is to include non-management staff members in planning and presenting. Ask them what they’d like to know more about and ask them how they would present it so that it’s interesting, meaningful and understandable. It’s even a good idea to let those folks make some of the presentations. We don’t always have to hear the CFO give the financial highlights. Lots of your team members can read financial statements. Have one of them talk with the CFO to glean what’s going on and then let the employee present it in the manner she wants to and highlighting what she thinks her peers will find important. If she wants to create a rap and “spit the word,” we challenge you to let her. In fact, Leaders, we challenge you to join her!
And let’s go ahead and slay another sacred cow. Maybe there is no financial report or state of the organization report. Those things can be written and read; or discussed by a direct supervisor with his staff members (which would like be a more interactive exchange anyway). At a large gathering, instead of droning on about the company’s quarterly results, or the latest capital campaign, use the time for building a collaborative team. Do team activities – fun and silly; or meaningful learning experiences – it doesn’t matter. Show them – let them experience – working together as a group to complete a task that isn’t related to the work they do at their desks. Shake up the teams, by the way – don’t make it “department wars,” but get folks from different departments working together on a team. (“Department wars” are okay for endeavors like fundraising when they’re competing to see who can raise the most money. For the most part, however, we strive to break down any walls between departments.)
If you don’t want to be silly or conduct non-work related activities (and we don’t know why you wouldn’t), then have the entire office work on rearticulating your vision, mission, values and corporate culture… but let them have a creative, innovative, fun time doing it. Have them make a three-dimensional poster that represents a value; or have them write a short story or scene to act out about the mission.
Bottom line: we all engage better if we feel that the meeting organizers wants us to be part of the meeting. Nobody wants to be lectured, regardless of age, rank, gender or any other criterion of distinction. All team members have brains; and, when encouraged, most are willing to participate.