Even after more than 20 years in the consulting, leadership business I’m still intrigued by the power and potential of well run group input processes. By now I’ve seen everything from the incredibly complex to the surprisingly simple. I’ve seen them both work. And fail.

Yesterday, I got a chance to observe a very effective process that said as much about strong leadership as it did about gathering great feedback. It involved a new CEO of a large, important, troubled and neglected industry group. His goals were clearly as much about demonstrating engagement and change of style as they were about hearing from key constituents.

There was absolutely no rocket science in his approach. First, he and his Chair made some introductory remarks setting the stage. Then they split the group into 3, handed each group 2 simple questions, and waited for feedback.

Then, the simple but remarkable part. As each group was presenting their input, he took notes and asked questions for clarification. On his feet the whole time. Moving around the room to get a direct look at the notes being used. Then, without hesitation or preparation, and still on his feet, he proceeded to summarize the reams of information he’d just been given. Having been assured, that he’d got the message properly, he then provided his perspective, response, concerns, and enthusiasm in a point by point fashion for everything he had just been fed.

Very, very effective. The message of “I listened, I get it, I have answers and I’m not afraid” echoed around the room. The response of the participants was predictably positive. Post-meeting I talked to a previously skeptical industry CEO who already changed sides – suspending disbelief and holding out serious hope for change.

Of course, one good meeting does not success make. But as a platform and an initial building block for change, it was very impressive. And simple. I learned something.