Magazine article Communication World

Coffee Chats as Leadership Tools: Face-to-Face Communication between Executives and Their Employees Is Becoming Increasingly Important in This Time of Increasing Change within Companies

Magazine article Communication World

Coffee Chats as Leadership Tools: Face-to-Face Communication between Executives and Their Employees Is Becoming Increasingly Important in This Time of Increasing Change within Companies

Article excerpt

Employees need to hear directly from their leaders about the direction of the company and the priorities of the business. They also need a chance to ask questions and share their perspectives with leaders. Ultimately, this two-way dialogue is one vital step in building employee alignment with the vision and direction.

But these chats can quickly become a challenge to manage if one employee dominates or the meeting degenerates into a general gripe session.

Here are 10 tips for assisting your leaders in getting the most out of their face-to-face employee meetings.

1) Prepare the employees' supervisors before the coffee chats. The supervisors of the employees attending the chats need to know why the leader is holding the meetings and what he or she wants to accomplish. The supervisors also should be aware that they may need to follow up particular issues that arise. They should be reassured that this is not about having employees "tattle" on them; it's about the leader connecting more directly with employees. Misunderstandings may be preventing employees from fully engaging in the business.

2) Identify three principal messages to deliver in the meetings. These three messages should be woven throughout the session as often as possible, to avoid tangents that don't accomplish the meeting objectives.

3) Prepare for questions that may arise. If you are aware of some sticky, negative or controversial issues that may surface during the meetings, make sure your leader is briefed ahead of time and not only is prepared to deal with those questions, but also has practiced the tough answers.

4) Set ground rules before the meeting starts. The leader should let employees know at the beginning of the session what the objective is and how they will handle any issues that aren't directly related to the meeting. For example, if an employee is concerned about a broken fax machine or the bad cafeteria muffins, have a flip chart available where a note can be captured for those types of issues to be tackled later.

5) Share two techniques for answering tough questions. Here are two quick techniques that a leader can use to acknowledge an emotional issue and then move on quickly.

TOUCH AND GO. Acknowledge the question but immediately divert the conversation from the negative topic to a related key message.

HUG AND GO. Give a verbal hug by acknowledging that the employee must be feeling bad, but again, quickly launch into something related, more positive and focused on one of the three key messages.

6) Recognize that these sessions can be emotionally draining. …

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