How Small Business Owners Can Raise the Quality of Conversation in Employee Meetings
When’s the last time you or your employees actually looked forward to a meeting. When you own a small business feedback can be crucial. Feedback or comments from customers are almost guaranteed. But open and honest conversations from employees in meetings can be elusive for small business owners and employees alike. They may have had bad experiences in the past, or they have a lack of trust and fear retaliation. Here are a few tips on how to elevate the quality of conversations without sacrificing your employees’ need to feel safe from retaliation when voicing opinions, ideas or speaking up about issues.
As a small business owner, what are you trying to accomplish with your meetings?
In a study conducted by the Gallup Organization in 2017, disengaged workers have 60 percent more errors. If your small business has low engagement you can expect decreased profitability, job growth and productivity. In another study by the Queens School of Business, data indicates that small to medium-sized businesses with high engagement rates have a 100 percent increase in unsolicited employment applications. Employees who are highly engaged help their colleagues reach team goals and look out for one another when giving solutions or bringing attention to issues.
Obviously an engaged employee is vested in the success of your small business, and not just the paycheck. The best way to receive and maintain high levels of engagement is to give them a voice in meetings. For the best outcomes, expect to treat employees as individuals and allow them to express themselves freely without criticism or retaliation.
Here are some quick tips on how to actively engage employees in meetings by asking permission to:
- Participate in meetings in a direct and candid manner, meaning allow those employees who speak, to speak and be heard without ridicule, and from those who listen, to listen without judgment.
- Intervene should discussions go astray, become repetitive or fall behind.
- Engage those who haven’t spoken.
- Stop someone who is dominating the conversation.
- Ask questions when you need more clarification.
As a leader, remind employees that they should ask permission first before expressing themselves as well. During meetings remind employees that they have permission to invite other employees to speak, to ask for more time to talk about a particular subject and to express ideas or concerns without fear. By asking permission, no one can mistake what is about to be said as threatening or intimidating. For instance, encourage the use of appropriate language like “may I say something about your comment” or “may I ask you something?” Other non-threatening segues before discussions include “may I counter what you just said with this comment?’
How to Really Listen and Treat Employees and what they have to Say with Respect
When everyone is involved in making a meeting a safe place, ideas evolve and solutions to problems are tackled as a team. If you convey that each person’s comments will be listened to with respect, you’ll reward your small business with motivated employees who know without doubt that their comments, ideas, and concerns matter. Like any other situation, actions speak louder than words. To convey that your meetings are a safe place for the exchange of ideas and deep conversation, consider:
- Asking follow-up questions
- Sharing what is valuable about someone’s idea or comment
- Showing your appreciation by thanking each person who contributes to the meeting.
- Answering any questions honestly.
At the conclusion of meetings, be sure to:
- Recap to the team what you learned at the meetings.
- Have someone take meeting minutes.
- Discuss the actions you will complete to put their ideas to work. If feasible, suggest that someone lead a team to move forward with an idea or suggestion and have them explain outcomes for the next meeting.
- State that any discussion held within the meeting will not be shared with others without their permission.
- Thank everyone for their contributions.
As a leader of your small business, you’re responsible for following up with people to ensure their ideas or comments were addressed and to complete any items on the list by the intended deadline. Having mutually respected and honest conversations with your employees is a process that needs lots of patience. But the reward to your small business means your employees will feel empowered to work together, take responsibility for one another and, ideally, have the type of work environment where every employee is proud to participate.