Leader meeting with employees in a small-group forum

 

You may have noticed that I write a lot about town hall meetings, which are valuable forums for bringing together leaders and employees. But town halls are not the only way to create leadership visibility. Many communicators I know are having great success with small-group sessions.

Recently, one communicator approached me about a small-group session she's thinking about putting together:

“I wanted to get your take on more CEO exposure with our employees. He’s a great guy, good sense of humor, but still intimidating. To make him more accessible to employees, we are planning to do some smaller employee group meetings in the cafeteria or in conference rooms throughout the facility, with the objective to build some rapport and some buzz, quality rather than quantity. We’re getting ready to communicate a refreshed strategy, so the thought was to keep this a kind of informal input session, appreciative inquiry style: What do you think is going well? How could we do more of that? Any tips on smaller meetings like this?”

Here’s the quick advice I provided about small group sessions:

  • If employees are at all intimidated by the CEO, set up the room so the CEO is sitting down, at the same level as the employees he’s meeting with. This may seem like a minor point, but it creates a friendly around-the-campfire dynamic.
  • Although the idea is to keep the small-group session informal, it’s still helpful to have a main topic. That way, employees have a reference point. For example, the CEO could spend a few minutes informally talking about an initiative like customer service. Then ask employees your questions: “What is going well about this? What challenges do we face?” and get the discussion started. Later in the session, the CEO could ask a more open-ended question: “What else is on your mind?”
  • The more the discussion is lets employees share their perspectives and expertise, the more dynamic it is. That way, there is no wrong answer (or question) because the discussion is about what employees know (and the CEO doesn’t know but is interested in.)

Hope you find this helpful.

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