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Planning a meeting? Think location, location, location

As we renamed our employee council the Culture Club, Boy George announces a reunion tour: an interesting coincidence or an eclectic fate?

Three meetings in and we are making progress on many fronts. However, an interesting change and resulting insight has taken place, not by what was said but rather where it was said.

The first meeting was held in our training room because the boardroom was under construction. Our training room is much more informal, and we gather in a circle instead of around a table.

The second meeting moved back to the boardroom, but the tone was different. The environment turned what is intended to be an informal, easy gathering into a serious, formal meeting. Somehow the communication became more of a one-way, slow, drawn-out push.

In an effort to find the open dialogue again, we moved the third meeting back to our training room. The conversation was much more transparent and real, and it seemed to make a strong connection to each person, myself included.

We start every meeting by stating that there is no set agenda; it is their time and we can discuss anything. One thing I like is that they gain a better understanding about things they want to know about. Then that information filters out across the company as the members return to their respective departments. If we have challenges we face them head on.

I hope the Culture Club can break down any concerns of an Us-and-Them culture and help us create a flat organization with a healthy hierarchy.

Armed with the help and suggestions from the Culture Club, the senior team and I prepared for our Q3 Town Hall meeting. My goal was to educate, enlighten, excite and engage our staff. In an effort to achieve these goals we arranged to have the meeting in the middle of the warehouse with the hope of making everyone feel comfortable. The presentation incorporated multiple speakers to give the meeting a more personal feel.

I went in thinking that the number of questions asked would reflect the level of employee engagement. In the end we got no questions.

I left the meeting proud of all the things the team managed to do in such a short time but somewhat puzzled. If the staff had any concerns about security, we clearly demonstrated that we are rapidly growing, hiring and investing in new initiatives.

We shared that we have new product categories coming, and two new product licenses. Literally every department is enjoying success in their metrics and we shared it all. Perhaps we missed the elements to make it real for them. They wanted to know what the top priorities were and how we were doing and we tackled that head on.

It wasn't until later, after an employee asked me a question in the hall, that it hit me.

Maybe engagement isn't measured by how many questions are asked in a Town Hall. Perhaps it is the one-on-one discussions and small group meetings after. The personal touch points are where it gets real.

Perhaps it is foolish of me to admit in public that I am learning, but this week taught me a lot. The more time we, as managers and leaders, spend in a casual setting with our staff, either one-on-one or in small groups, the more I am sure we will all be engaged.