Business planning meetings are an opportunity for small business owners to harness the best of what their staff can offer in an environment that promotes ideas and discussion.
Small business owners must create the right setting and provide opportunities for staff members to be creative. Here are a few tips small business owners can use to make sure their business planning meetings are successful.
In an ideal business, everyone is engaged. Next time you’re in a meeting, pay attention to how people are interacting. Are they checking e-mail? Staring into space? Doodling on their note pad? You could get angry at them, but the problem is probably your lack of energy as a leader. If you’re engaged, if you lead and set the tone, others will follow. Set the pace, and expect others to keep up.
Don’t overdo it, and keep it natural; if it’s not channelled correctly, it can have the opposite effect when people think you are faking it! How do you prepare your team for a meeting? Do you think through what you want to discuss? Have you prepared an agenda? Does everyone know in advance and understand their input is needed and what you expect?
Small business owners who want to draw ideas out of their staff need to make sure they know they are in an environment where their participation is welcome. For junior or quiet staff members, encourage them to open up by asking them easy questions directly in the meeting, or get them comfortable brainstorming in pairs before the meeting. As the leader, you should be sure to keep the conversation flowing, as well as on track. Consider using proven methods like The Stepladder Technique to promote participation.
Choose an environment that promotes innovation.
Sitting around in a meeting room can be dull and stifling. One way small business owners can attempt to spark innovation is taking the meeting off-site. These locations should have comfortable chairs, be bright and colourful and promote energy. I went to a great meeting held out in the open at Eden Gardens, and the vibe throughout the day was excellent.
Don’t be secretive; let them know the state of play.
The deeper the knowledge employees have into what their employer is trying to achieve and how the business is going, the better they feel and the more likely they will have ideas that can truly help the business during the planning process. Without accurate and up-to-date financial data, it can be extremely challenging to generate a realistic and worthwhile business strategy.
Learn from others who have succeeded.
Showing your team what a good idea looks like may be more beneficial than simply telling them. Providing examples of how other businesses handled the issues and asking staff for their feedback will draw out their ideas and could lead to better results during the business planning process.
Inspire employees to think outside the box.
Encourage an enthusiastic, uncritical attitude among members of the group. Some of the best innovations have come when employees feel free to conjure up and share ideas, no matter how ridiculous they may sound. This is vital during the planning process because setting parameters can often restrict brainstorming efforts, stifling ideas that might take the business to the next level.
You can have a great session and go away from a meeting feeling you have reached consensus, but if you have not apportioned accountability for making the idea reality, your staff don’t know what they’re supposed to do. Your team will either make a half-hearted effort or give up because they’re not sure of who has ownership of tasks.
At the end of the day, everyone should know what you expect of them going out of a meeting. Follow up with a summary of the objectives, the tasks involved in attaining your goals and who is the owner of each task.
Want to make the most of your meetings? Create the right environment, and plan ahead.