It’s All About Culture
Before transitioning into entrepreneurship, I worked at two major corporate companies. I remember plucking up lots of courage to share any ideas in meetings. On many occasions, I simply wouldn’t share anything because of fear, anxiety and a lack of confidence.
Here’s the thing, the best ideas come from both senior leaders and those working on the front line.
So how can leaders structure meetings to create a comfortable environment to share ideas? It all comes down to culture. If there is a hierarchical culture where only the boss’s opinions are valued, no one will share. However, if there is a genuine interest in the thoughts of all employees, many ideas will be shared.
As hybrid work environments become more popular, it’s more important than ever to rethink and reshape workplace meetings. Here are a few practical measures leaders can put in place to create an atmosphere of comfortable sharing.
Set Friendly Agenda’s
To run an efficient meeting, there should be a clear agenda with time allocated to each agenda item. To support an inclusive meeting, the agenda should have allocated time for attendees to share new ideas, observations and feedback. The leader should encourage suggestions from all participants throughout the meeting.
To help people feel more confident, you could try asking specific team members what they think about certain issues.
Schedule Extra Time
Add extra time to meetings allowing room for people to share their ideas. Try adding an extra 15 minutes at the end specifically for opinions questions and thoughts. Ensure everyone is aware of the added time so they can prepare their ideas in advance.
This is particularly important for online meetings with remote workers or hybrid meetings where both office and remote workers join. The extra time can help remote workers feel more included in the conversation as they have the opportunity to contribute.
Open The Meeting With The Right Tone
When starting a meeting, it’s important to welcome everyone with a warm, friendly and inviting manner. This helps your audience to warm up and let their guard down. Opening with an authoritative or aggressive tone can cause employees to shrink back and keep silent.
Speak with a smile and address each person by name so they feel comfortable and seen. This will warm up the atmosphere and encourage people to contribute to the conversation.
Virtual Suggestion Box
To accommodate a hybrid work environment, you could think about starting an online suggestion box. This is a safe place for employees to share their thoughts, suggestions and feedback about specific topics. Set up a company email address that’s only for employee submissions.
Encourage employees to send their thoughts and ideas if they are not comfortable speaking during meetings. Read the messages in the virtual box once a week and look out for common trends, innovative ideas and useful viewpoints to progress your company.
A great way to empower people to speak up is to delegate parts of your meeting to other team members. If someone shows an interest in a certain area, why not give them an opportunity to lead on the subject in meetings. Here are a few examples of areas you could try delegating:
- Productivity tips
- Wellbeing advice
- Time management tips
- Customer service wins
- Staff engagement such as social events
Try New Ways
To help your employees grow in confidence try out some new methods. Here are some examples of different meeting structures and formats you could try:
- Weekly online meetings with one office meeting a month
- Remote teams who only meet online mixed with in person teams who only meet at the office
- Hybrid meetings where video conferencing is used to dial in remote workers
- Rotating teams to work both remotely and in the office changing every quarter
Allow For Teething Problems
As you try out new methods and structures for your team meetings, give yourself, your employees and your organisation time to adapt. Once a child’s new tooth comes through, they get to experience the joys of new foods, textures and eating experiences.
Push through any teething problems and resistance and give yourself some grace to figure everything out.
We’re all in the same boat as we rebuild from the ashes of COVID into a fresh start.