The questions come in live and unprompted, and are answered as openly as possible. Around the table, the chief executive is joined by leaders from across the business.
No subject is off-limits.
This is the Post Office’s monthly leadership conference call: an hour in which they set out their latest performance figures, provide a round-up of key business issues and then open up the lines for questions.
Mark Davies, @markdavies67, Group Communications, Brand and Corporate Affairs Director, has written for the All Things IC blog to tell us more…
The audience is our leadership population: all those who report to members of the Group Executive, their direct reports and other colleagues with significant line management responsibilities.
It usually means that around 250 people are on the call.
Most of the questions come in digitally, flashing up as they are submitted on the screen in our meeting room. I act as host, teeing up Group Executive members to respond.
No question is left unanswered.
When we started this approach just over a year ago, few questions were tabled. Now it averages around 20 – and they don’t tend to hold back, quizzing our leaders on everything from senior executive pay to business strategy, and much more in between.
Very few colleagues put their names to the questions, and few use the facility to ask their question verbally.
But from a standing start, it’s a strong foundation to build on.
It feels like the kind of transparent and authentic leadership which is right for our times.
It encourages colleagues to ask the questions we know are lurking in their minds and enables our leaders to see what their top teams are thinking (some of which inevitably reflects what is being discussed by their teams).
At times it is challenging to a degree which feels uncomfortable for some. And when difficult decisions involving our people are being made there can be a natural inclination to avoid potential confrontation – but our leaders recognise that the duty of leadership is to face such challenges head on.
The approach is of course complemented by written materials for cascade and as much face to face contact as budgets and other practical considerations can handle, not to mention our news website.
And we will look to develop if further, potentially using Skype and other digital channels to encourage further participation and interaction.
On the other side
A few months ago I sat on the other end of one of the calls to get a sense of how it feels.
The issue in question was difficult and controversial. Few questions came up. When a senior colleague expressed his frustration later, I was able to explain what had happened in the room where I had listened to the call.
Colleagues with many years of service had set out their genuine astonishment about the call. They had views of course about the subject matter – but were just as animated about the call itself: never before had they experienced such openness, and whatever their views on the issue, they had nothing but positivity about the communications approach.
It has a way to go, and it might not sound particularly innovative. But we are proud of our monthly leadership calls.
They are primarily there to build understanding and awareness: but are contributing a great deal more in a business which is changing rapidly, and where changing culture is a critical element of transformation.
Thank you Mark, I like this approach. The Post Office uses a Q&A audience interaction app called Sli.do.
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Post author: Mark Davies.
First published on the All Things IC blog 7 April 2017.