What can you do to increase employee participation in company meetings? Maybe your employees aren't the problem. Maybe it's you. In particular, maybe it's the way you communicate. Ralph Stayer, CEO and owner of Johnsonville Foods, a sausage manufacturer in Kohler, Wis., discovered the truth when he was trying to encourage employees to take more initiative. Traditional tactics weren't working, so Stayer put simple technology to work. He literally listened to himself talk.

Stayer started to record his staff meetings. When, later, he reviewed the tapes, Stayer was surprised to hear himself distinctly stifling employee participation. For example, as soon as an idea was opened for discussion, Stayer himself would jump in with, "What do you think? Here's what I think." Painful as it was to play back his own words, Stayer says the tape helped him understand and change his management style. And employees are now more comfortable voicing their opinions.