The World of Work Project

Ask Me Anything Sessions: Being An Approachable Leader

Ask Me Anything sessions are meetings where leaders open the floor to any questions from their team members. These sessions often cover more personal questions, not just work related ones. They help teams get to know their leaders and connect with them more on a personal level.

Summary by The World of Work Project

Ask Me Anything Sessions

In large organizations leaders often find it difficult to build personal relationships with individuals in their teams. This is particularly true once their team size starts to get above about 100-150 people (See Dunbar’s Number).

Ask me anything sessions (AMAs) are one way that leaders may seek to overcome this challenge. These sessions let leaders demonstrate their humanity and create an opportunity for their teams to get to know them. As well as being used to help teams get to know their leaders, AMAs can be used to communicate about specific topics, e.g. “AMA about the new IT system we’re implementing”.

The sessions work exactly as their name suggests. In them, leaders usually start by introducing themselves before opening the floor to questions. As the name suggests, these questions can be about anything at all.

AMAs usually last 30 to 60 minutes. They can be live as part of away-days or town-hall sessions or virtual over platforms like zoom. They can even take place over audio only on conference calls or using webchat tools.

You could hold an AMA virtually with an entire leadership team.

Tell me anything” sessions are an interesting variant of AMAs. In them leaders listen to whatever a small group would like to share with them. These “tell me anything” sessions are powerful ways for leaders to gain an insight into specific aspects of their business, or the views of specific groups within their organizations. Tell me anything sessions are particularly helpful ways for leaders to learn about the challenges faced by the members of their minority groups.

The World of Work Project View

Ask Me Anything Session can be very effective ways to communicate and to build a more personal relationship with a large team. They’re easy to run (provided you understand the technology you plan to use), reach many people at the same time, can be recorded or transcribed and circulated and can be a highly engaging way to connect with a team.

Leaders, however, can be somewhat scared of them and may not see the point of them. They may find it hard to reveal their personality to the team, they may not think they have anything to say, they might feel no one is interested in them as a person and they almost certainly will be concerned about difficult questions.

Depending on a leaders confidence, charisma and agreeableness, it may be worth helping them prepare in advance for AMAs and using a facilitator for the session. It’s also usually a good idea to request some questions in advance so that if the session starts slowly, you have questions to fall back on.

Overall we think AMA sessions are helpful and should be used more. They are a burden on leadership time, but we believe they are worth it.

Sources and further reading

Where possible we always recommend that people read up on the original sources of information and ideas.

This post is based on our experiences in the world of work. There are no specific references for it.

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