It is crucial to keep your employees engaged and motivated. A common strategy leaders use to create open communication is the all-hands meeting method, which allows the entire team access to the same information, at the same time. However, when a large group of people are brought together and run through countless presentation slides, it’s unlikely they will retain much of the content. By supporting the traditional all-hands with restructured team meetings, a leader can offer transparency, motivate their team, and foster engagement.
We are not wired to sit through presentations
Scientific research shows that our conscious minds are simply not adept at processing more than one thing at a time—especially if those things utilize the same part of the brain.
Psychologist Marc Coutanche, from the University of Pittsburgh, explains in Popular Mechanics: “Your [brain’s] language regions are processing the sounds, the words, the meaning of the sentences. Imagine a circuit where you’ve got multiple inputs and multiple outputs, but they share the same wires.” According to Coutanche, when you read and listen to two separate things, you’re forcing your brain to draw on the same resources.
This means that after sitting through a slide-heavy presentation, different participants will have varied degrees of understanding over the information covered, and may struggle to recall the same data just hours later.
Presentations miss the point
As leaders, if the goal is to transmit a vision of change or transformation, then the desired outcome is never just the message itself. Rather, the desired outcome is to engage the team in the mission and to spark action.
To foster transparent and open dialog we must find new tools to create spaces of engagement. One of our favorites at TheoremOne is Lean Coffee.
Create a new culture with agenda-less meetings
Lean Coffee, created by Jim Benson and Jeremy Lightsmith, is a structured, but agenda-less meeting. Participants gather, build an agenda, and begin talking. Conversations are focused and productive because the agenda for the meeting was democratically generated, allowing participants to speak freely about what is most important to them.
These transformative spaces are powerful tools that help facilitate relaxed and open communication, drive engagement, capture feedback, and generate fresh ideas. It’s common for team members to resist speaking up in formal settings, but lean meetings break down those barriers so every person can be heard.
Running your first Lean Coffee
There are a lot of tools and resources available to help leaders run a Lean Coffee meeting. Here at TheoremOne, we love using Miro, as it works very well in remote environments.
Here is the template we use with our teams and clients. Feel free to copy and use it as your own. https://miro.com/app/board/uXjVOMsTWB0=/
Running Lean Coffee sessions in Miro:
- Ask the participants to add items in the “to discuss” column.
- Review all of the suggestions, explaining them in one or two sentences.
- Vote on which topic should be the primary focus.
- “Discuss” the most-voted item for five minutes.
- After the five minutes is up, vote again on whether or not to continue focusing on the topic at hand:
- Thumbs up: “Let’s continue for another five minutes on this topic.”
- Thumbs to the side: “I don’t know.”
- Thumbs down: “Let’s move to the next topic.”
- Repeat Step 5 again with the item selected.
Tips to facilitate success:
- Make sure your invitation to the team is clear and inviting. If the group has never been in a Lean Coffee, then set expectations of how the dynamic will work.
- Ask a facilitator to lead it. Lean Coffee has simple rules, but it is always good to have somebody who is focused on and able to mediate the space, the participants, and the group dynamics.
- Use breakout rooms. If the group struggles to brainstorm items to discuss during step one, then form smaller groups of two or three people using breakout rooms. This will help get momentum going.
- Ask for feedback. Always make time to ask for feedback about the session before leaving a Lean Coffee space. Whether the feedback is positive or constructive, it’s necessary to continue growing and adapting. Plus, it builds trust by showing the team that leadership is willing to listen.
In the case of big teams, this approach may need some more structure to scale. If you have 100+ people on the team, you will probably have to limit the topics discussed and might not review each one outloud. The focus should be on prioritization of topics based on need or urgency.
Give it a try!
The all-hands meeting is one of the most important tools in a company’s arsenal for fostering and developing transparency. Leaders who are serious about building growth and engagement should consider hosting a non-traditional, agenda-less meeting.
If you want to learn more about how TheoremOne fosters this environment of engagement, explore Lean Coffee and see if the strategy is right for you.