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Rethink! Find the Creative Spark!

By November 22, 2011No Comments

At SWK, we hold quarterly staff meetings. Those who are local or nearby make the trek into the office, while many more of our team dial in or connect via video chat. Historically, the meetings are divided into presentations by department heads: financial, sales, marketing, technical support, development, projects and HR. There are PowerPoints and a significant amount of data, statistics and other information, much of which is important and valuable. There is always time for Q&A, but it’s fairly routine as these things go.

At our recent meeting, though, I decided to mix things up a bit. Sure, we had a few minutes of financial data from Chip Melvin, our very capable CFO, who shared some very favorable SWK sales trends and financial statements with the group. Afterwards, however, we continued a discussion we had started two days earlier at our executive strategic planning meeting. There, we challenged each other to describe what SWK would look like two years from now. We chose that timeframe because we wanted our executive team to think forward, but to remain realistic. This avoided “pie-in-the-sky” hopes and dreams; instead, we focused on attainable goals.

At the staff meeting, instead of leading the audience, we allowed everyone a chance to share their two-year visions with the team. Although I could talk about the results (maybe next month), it is the process that I’d like to share.

In a group setting, there are always a few who are comfortable to speak. Everyone else tends to just listen. At the staff meeting, I had given everyone a hint at the beginning that this meeting would be different and that I was looking to inspire deep and creative thinking. I shared something that I learned from a recent event where AmyK was the keynote speaker. She spoke about different states of mind that allow us to relax, to think superficially, or to think deeply and brilliantly. At our meeting, I was, of course, looking to extract from our team the latter.

Since we weren’t sharing deep personal issues, this wasn’t as difficult as I’d feared, even for those I refer to as the “listeners.” I offered some keywords/themes, such as ERPX3, Sage’s enterprise-level application that is a big part of SWK’s future. Additionally, mentioning “being the best” sparked some thoughts, but I pressed for details. A HA, I thought! That did the trick! I determined that if I led just a little bit, but didn’t do the thinking for the group, we’d make some progress … and we did!

Many who rarely speak up at the meeting really enjoyed thinking deeply, while focusing on some specific aspect of our business and what it would look like to them. The “regulars” spoke up, but we had a greater degree of participation than ever before.

I asked Kathleen Weiss, our HR Director, to take notes and then asked everyone for their comments through a follow-up evaluation. The results were positive, and everyone who responded was enthusiastic about this meeting format.

The bottom line: Take something you do with your team and rethink it! Recreate it! The results will surprise you and you will effect some very positive changes in your business while making meetings more interesting and participatory.

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