Having a disciplined process ensures transfer of vital information and reserves time to celebrate, coach, and encourage.
Effective company leaders practice good communications and celebrate successes. When I visit companies on a consulting mission, often I’m told by the coworkers, “We just don’t communicate in our company.” I understand their point and probably have identified the lack of communications as a company challenge already. However, they are incorrect about what the problem is. They are communicating, but the information is inaccurate. It’s often rumors, and it’s usually negative in nature.
Nothing is more important than proper communications, but many company owners, general managers, and leaders don’t understand this. Coworkers expect and deserve to know what is happening in the company. How can coworkers properly represent their company without being informed?
Good communication requires a process and discipline on the part of the owner or general manager. The process I often recommend is:
- A once-monthly general meeting of all coworkers. In large diversified companies, it may be a general meeting by division.
- A bi-weekly (every other week) meeting of company leaders.
- A bi-weekly meeting with individual company leaders.
The owner or general manager facilitates the once-monthly meeting of all coworkers. They should be on the same day of the month; for example, for one hour on the second Tuesday at 8 a.m. Make the meetings informative and fun. Tell everyone what’s happening in the company — what’s new, what they can look forward to, what’s changing, the present and near-future workload, significant new jobs sold, new processes, new coworkers, birthdays and employment anniversaries that month, etc. (Including these takes advantage of an opportunity to recognize coworkers, a form of appreciation.)
Also important is sharing success stories. I always handed out the spiff checks for previous-month’s earnings and allowed the coworkers to nominate and then select a coworker to receive “the extra mile award” for something done in the previous month. As the meeting facilitator, you can be genuine and a cheerleader at the same time. These meetings, properly planned and conducted, are an event and celebration that coworkers look forward to. Most companies spend little time celebrating and lots of time discussing things that are going wrong. This is ineffective and wastes time.
The bi-weekly meeting of company leaders is facilitated by the owner or general manager. These also should be on the same day and the same time, but can run longer, about one-and-a-half hours. Have each leader report on their area of responsibility to the other leaders. The transfer of information among departments and divisions is critical. Allow no interruptions, and have each attendee bring a short list of what they wish to present or discuss.
With these lists, the facilitator quickly prepares the agenda and does not permit any other subjects to be discussed. At the conclusion of the meeting, the facilitator can summarize and make any assignments. Debate is allowed and can be healthy if handled correctly. Remember, you don’t all have to be in agreement, but you need to be in alignment.
The owner or general manager meets with the leaders individually bi-weekly, normally the week between the bi-weekly company leaders meeting. These separate meetings should also be scheduled on the same day and same time. Forty-five minutes to one hour for each meeting should be adequate. This is when the owner or general manager can be coaching and encouraging.
If any of these meetings for some reason — and it needs to be a good reason — must be rescheduled, it should be done as quickly as possible. As mentioned earlier, the discipline of having the prescheduled meetings as planned is very important. Continually rescheduling or not even having these meetings sends the signal that they are not important.