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The Office Press Conference

By Todd Dewett, Andersen Alumnus, author and speaker

Good leaders are busy, busy people, but they still have to find time to get out in the trenches and touch base with the team. You have to keep them in the loop, seek to be helpful, and answer their questions as needed. Unfortunately, you can’t be everywhere you’re needed all the time. One partial solution is the office press conference.

Once each week, put yourself on the hot seat. Announce the place and time. Invite the entire team. This is not a cheerful town hall meeting. Those are usually dedicated to only one or two issues and are overly managed. The office press conference is not run by you and is not dedicated to issues you choose. It is run by the employees, and it’s far more likely to be productive.

At the designated time, step up to the proverbial microphone and say, “Thanks for coming. First question?” Then point to an employee. Like any good politician, you can avoid tough questions by avoiding certain questioners. I’m not saying you should avoid tough questions, just the folks who too often want to address trivial matters. Use your time on the spot to solicit worthwhile questions that will inform, and possibly inspire.

Unlike most politicians, you will not give “non answer” answers. We’ve all seen it. A question is asked and the politician speakers for several minutes but doesn’t come anywhere close to answering the question. In contrast, your goal is to mildly surprise your audience with candor. They might not always love what you have to say, but they will come to respect your honesty.

If you want to increase how seriously the employees take this event, limit the event to 30 minutes and only 4-5 questions. This will encourage the team to chat beforehand and decide upon the most pressing questions. Nothing is off limits. No matter what you hear come out of their mouths – be as open as you possibly can without revealing anything you are not cleared to reveal. If they want you to address the budget, corporate strategy, a decision you’ve made, whatever – do it, and be honest.

Someone should tell the politicians this: a shocking thing happens when you get honest. People love honesty so much; they start accepting answers they don’t necessarily like. That’s how much we love not hearing BS.

Most bosses understand the need to keep the team in the loop. However, too many of them rely almost exclusively on electronic solutions. The office press conference provides a better solution. It’s face-to-face. They’re seeking information they want instead of you pushing information you think they need. Finally, you’re putting yourself at their mercy – which makes you real, honest, authentic, accountable, and worth listening to.

Dr. Todd Dewett is one of the world’s most watched leadership personalities: a thought leader, an authenticity expert, best-selling author, top global instructor at LinkedIn Learning, a TEDx speaker, and an Inc. Magazine Top 100 leadership speaker. He has been quoted in the New York Times, TIME, Businessweek, Forbes, and many other outlets. After beginning his career with Andersen Consulting and Ernst & Young he completed his PhD in Organizational Behavior at Texas A&M University and enjoyed a career as an award-winning professor. Todd has delivered over 1,000 speeches to audiences at Microsoft, ExxonMobil, Pepsi, Boeing, General Electric, IBM, Kraft Heinz, Caterpillar, and hundreds more. His educational library at LinkedIn Learning has been enjoyed by over 30,000,000 professionals in more than one hundred countries in eight languages. Visit his home online at www.drdewett.com or connect with Todd on LinkedIn. He can be reached at todd@drdewett.com