Fashion entrepreneur Eileen Fisher says with one simple tip, you can make your team feel like more engaged with their work.
Illustration by Jimmy Turrel
"When you're part of figuring something out, you have much more invested in it."-- Eileen Fisher
People feel like they are co-creating when they're in a circle together. They can see where the energy is. They're not being dictated to. When you're part of figuring something out, you have much more invested in it.
Listening is a really important part of the circle. In a lot of environments, people talk over each other. Making space for different kinds of people, different voices, different ideas, is really important for the success of the business.
A woman in one of our stores came up with the idea of a talking stick and how some Native American tribes used it to solve problems. They passed it around until everyone had a chance to contribute. Our talking sticks can be anything: an apple or an orange or a cookie. Just knowing you are going to have a turn--sometimes it's hard when people are bantering or talking fast.
We recently created a circle just of younger people to brainstorm ideas. They were so grateful to be heard and had so many wonderful ideas. We are on a path to implement some of them already.
It's very personal for me because it was hard for me to learn to speak. I'm still working on it. At conferences, I sometimes want to say, "Can we have the talking stick so I can get my word in edgewise?"
Eileen Fisher is founder of the Irvington, New York-based fashion company that bears her name. For most meetings, we sit on chairs in a circle.
LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor at large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture. @LeighEBuchanan