6 Ways to Fix a one-sided leadership meeting

6 Ways to Fix a one-sided leadership meeting

When I think of a successful all-hands meeting (also known as a town hall), there’s a part of me that imagines a scene from Wolf of Wall Street or thinks of the ex-CEO of Microsoft, Steve Balmer, entering the stage dancing and screaming at the top of his lungs, ending in him being out of breath and struggling to utter his next few words.

In today's world, this can be quite different. 

We click on a calendar link, 

Immediately hit the mute button (in case our children scream). 

And watch the CEO speak for an hour (45 minutes, if we’re lucky).

What happens in the period between the mute button and everyone waving goodbye?

As the CEO goes on… and on… about the sales team's achievement, we contemplate…

  • Hey! What about my department?
  • Should I turn my camera off and continue working
  • Shall I ask that one question that’s been on my mind for weeks? Never mind, let me mute. 

So, does that mean all town hall meetings are unproductive? No. Not if done right.

In this article, we’ll talk through 

a) Why are all-hands important 

b) 3 Reasons why your team may feel disengaged

c) 6 tips for a successful all-hands meeting

Why are all-hands important?

All-hands give a unique window of opportunity for employees and leadership to build trust, feel connected to the business and align on business objectives. 

Rather than being passed messages down from a string of 10 people, all-hands let the team hear the voice of executives (first-hand!) and help them feel personally invested and connected to the broader mission.

3 reasons why your team may feel disengaged: 

So why do some all-hands meetings force teams to switch off, feel disengaged, and unproductive?

  1. Top-down communication

If all-hands were meant for simply sharing key updates with the team, we could just send an email blast out to every colleague. 

But we know this top-down approach would feel cold, impersonal, and not catch much attention. 

Yet, our executive team can sometimes fall into this top-down communication trap. They turn what should be a collaborative meeting into a one-way webinar.

That’s when your team begins thinking about turning their cameras off, slowly winding down the volume button, and getting on with “real work”.

  1. Lack of inclusion/relevancy

There’s been a few times where I’ve joined a town hall excited to hear from the exec team, and then left wondering if I’m in the right department or if my role is important. Why?

Well, the CEO spent 80% of the meeting talking about the sales team and (maybe accidentally) skipped over my department entirely.

If that happened to you, would you look forward to the next all-hands meeting? 

  1. Shying away from tough topics

Have you ever heard of the saying “trust breeds trust”? 

For all-hands meetings, this couldn’t be any more accurate.

Teams struggle to build trust if they feel the executive team is only sharing positive news but avoiding (or conveniently skipping) the difficult truths. 

Being part of a “team” we expect to be treated like insiders. 

Sharing positive, as well as negative news, helps build trust and shows that the company is human and is doing its best to improve. 

6 tips for a successful town hall

  1. Make town halls a two-way street

Move away from the top-down webinar approach and get your team engaged in a two-way conversation.

Allocate a 20-minute time slot in the session where you run through a Q&A with the team.

  1. Give everyone the confidence to speak up!

Every employee has a few tough questions up their sleeve for the CEO, but when it's their time to ask away… the room is filled with an awkward silence. Why?

Well, asking tough questions in front of hundreds of people and directly toward your CEO is not easy.

Step #1 - Standardize a way for your teams to submit questions before an all-hands meeting.

Step #2 - Give your team the option to be anonymous when submitting these questions 

  1. Make those questions publicly available

Let’s face it. Constantly hounding your teams to share questions before a meeting is painful for you and the entire team. 

What if you could create a way to naturally make your team curious, spark creativity, and inspire them to ask questions?

Step #1 - Let your team submit anonymous questions into a public feedback channel (e.g. #all-hands-questions) for the whole team to see them. 

Step #2 - As these questions naturally flow in, it will spark creativity, improve participation, and even allow them to upvote topics.

Step #3 - Review the most upvoted topics and let leadership prepare for them ahead of their meeting. 

  1. Moderate messages but don’t shy away from tough questions

At this point, you may be thinking “What if my team posts something negative?”

Turn on leadership moderation. This will allow you to approve, deny, or reply privately to messages before they go into the public feedback channel (shown in the image below).


This does not mean you shy away from answering tough questions. Remember, the goal of an all-hands is to build trust and show your team the bigger picture. 

Treat your team like insiders. Cover positive as well as negative topics. 

  1. Feedback Fridays reminder/recurring reminder.

Use Feedback Fridays to build feedback into your team’s weekly schedule and encourage your team to share questions.

Step #1 - Customize your feedback Friday message

Step #2 - Find a platform (like Incognito) that will automatically remind your team to share questions.

It can look like this:

  1. Use a pulse to collect feedback

If done right, post-all-hands, your team should be feeling very connected and motivated to the business. This is the BEST time to launch a pulse survey and collect feedback from your teams.

Ask them: 

  • What they liked and disliked about the town hall
  • If they would recommend a friend to work at the company

After receiving the data don’t just analyze it, instead, use apps like Incognito for Slack to collect feedback from the team, but also have leadership respond and react with anonymous conversations - directly in Slack.

Create a psychologically safe feedback environment during (and outside) your All-hands

If you’re able to use the steps above correctly, your all-hands meeting will be packed with creative ideas, teams eager to participate and awkward silences replaced with value-driven conversations.

You can book a free consultation call with us here today

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