Holding a town hall meeting (or open forum, or all-hands, or AMA) is a great activity for ethical leaders to engage in.
It demonstrates openness, a willingness to share, a desire to be transparent. It’s a recognition by the leader that having an open-door policy doesn’t mean that everyone is comfortable coming to see you in the office. It also shows a willingness to be vulnerable, which is actually a sign of strength.
A key feature of a town hall meeting is the Q&A segment. There should be no limit on the questions that can be asked. In addition to questions asked during the meeting, people should be able to submit their questions in advance, anonymously, for all others to see and vote on. Most importantly, answers by leadership should be candid. If a question cannot be answered, the leader should say why. No spin, no evasion.
These meetings should be held regularly, several times each year. There is comfort for employees in knowing that there will be a next opportunity to ask a question.
These sessions allow leaders to know what’s on their colleagues’ minds. They can see what’s bothering them, what is preventing them from doing their best work. Good ideas can also be exposed and myths can be dispelled.
Town hall meetings don’t solve all communication problems. Some employees will never feel comfortable speaking up in these settings. Other avenues must be offered. But they are a great communication tool that too few utilize, or utilize well.