One of the most commonly used communication vehicles used by senior leaders is the town hall meeting. Typically, this is where an executive stands up in front of a large group of people and discusses a business-critical strategic initiative. The good news about town hall meetings is that they enable employees to hear the same message at the same time. The bad news is that town hall meetings don’t generate the degree of two-way communication that is essential for managing resistance to change
and accelerating implementation, because people are reluctant to ask their burning questions in this public arena.
Here are some techniques that you can easily employ to transform your next town hall meeting into a much more effective forum.
- Start with a brief 15 minute presentation.
The leader should deliver a speech that is built around the Business Case for Action,
covering “what we are doing, why we are doing it, and what are the consequences if we are not successful.” This speech should ideally be delivered without use of a podium, simply because a podium serves to physically create distance between the leader and the employees.
- Ask people to turn to the person next to him or her and discuss two things: 1) their reactions to what they just heard, and 2) what questions does this generate for them?
This approach enables people to raise questions in a safe environment and test the validity of their individual concerns with others. In other words, people can determine if the question or concern passes the “Does this sound stupid?” test in a low-risk environment.
- While this discussion time is going on, the leader should step to the side of the stage.
The physical location of the leader is important, because it positions the leader as not being “center-stage” during the discussion phase of the meeting. This time is about the employees having control of the discussion.
- Ask for reactions from the audience- what did they discuss between themselves?
Now that employees have had an opportunity to share reactions and questions with each other and gone through their own validity-testing process, you are far more likely to get their real questions and concerns. This is very important, because a large part of the value of the town hall meeting is to surface resistance. If you are able to bring resistance out into the open you are in a much better position to manage it.
By following these four simple steps, you can transform your next town hall meeting into a much more productive communication event.
You can learn more practical tactics and strategies for managing your projects and initiatives by attending our Introduction to AIM
program, held both publicly and on-site. For more information, go to www.imaworldwide.com