Opening the lines of communication with your staff begins with healthy group dialog. The best place to start is by setting up a regular forum for people to voice new ideas and safely suggest alternative ways of doing things. No matter how strong your relationships are with the individuals on your team or how long you’ve all been working together, the group dynamic takes on a life of its own during the weekly staff meeting. More than just about anything, this gathering gives you an opportunity to open the lines of communication, recognize a job well done, and place individual contributors into leadership roles.
There are three basic steps to a successful staff meeting:
1. Invite all of your subordinates to discuss what’s going on in their worlds. This might include brief updates and overviews of achievements, roadblocks and opportunities to reinvent the workflow. It’s not only important for individuals to talk about themselves; it’s also critical that all members of the staff hear what their peers are doing. Too many times, employees mistakenly believe that they’re doing the lion’s share of the work on the team. Once they hear about everyone else’s problems and challenges, they may develop a greater appreciation for their peers’ contributions and their sense of entitlement will diminish.
2. Focus on what you, as a group, could have done differently in the past week. What opportunities did you miss for making the company a better place? After all, that’s what work is all about. We’re hired to increase revenues, decrease expenses and save time. Any lost opportunities to affect the company’s bottom line in one of those three ways should be discussed, studied and revisited in this post-mortem exercise. “What could we have done differently?” is a natural counterpoint to our opening question in Step 1 because it mirrors what’s going on in your group at any given time. It also allows for a healthy dose of self-critical insight and makes it safe to learn from your mistakes.
3. Introduce constructive criticism into the decision-making process. Ask specifically: “What do we need to do differently to reinvent the workflow in our area?” The best ideas will always come from people in the trenches. The frustration that many employees share with HR during exit interviews is that they didn’t feel like their ideas mattered. They went through the motions day-in and day-out but had no real impact or influence over their working environment. This simple invitation satisfies the basic need to be heard and make a positive difference.
So, where do these weekly staff meetings lead? First and foremost, they’ll strengthen the overall culture of the work unit. Second, by giving your people more “face time” with you—the boss—and with each other, a spirit of camaraderie will develop. Finally, these meetings will hopefully expand from the micro view of short-term work assignments and project updates to the macro level of real organizational impact. All in all, your group meeting will likely end up being the most important hour of the week for enhancing productivity and teamwork.
Paul Falcone (www.PaulFalconeHR.com) is a human resources executive and a best-selling author of nine books, including 101 Sample Write-Ups for Documenting Employee Performance Problems (AMACOM/SHRM 2010).