Leadership & Future of Work

Are your meetings reflecting the culture you are trying to build?

Post by
Diyanah Afendy
Are your meetings reflecting the culture you are trying to build?

By now we should all know that healthy, effective company culture doesn’t just spring from an office ping pong table or those Friday trivia sessions. Culture emerges from what a team does together and how they do it.

Ever wondered how you can witness a team’s culture being cultivated in action? Their meetings will show it all.  

You will see firsthand the beliefs that drive a team and the beliefs that hold them back. If the culture revolves around having fun and having the same shared passion for the brand, it’ll be clear as day in their team meetings. If a team’s culture encourages power struggles, pointing fingers, and evasion, you’ll see that when they meet too.

You will notice that companies with strong and effective cultures craft their meetings to drive results and put the organisation’s desired values into practice. And as we’ve talked about in our previous article – it all boils down to the company’s values that serve as a guiding principle in cultivating culture.

If you aren’t sure if your company meetings are reflecting the culture you are trying to cultivate, you should consider asking yourself these questions.

Are my core values communicated and encouraged in meetings?

If your organisation has defined its core values, that’s great! Ensure that this is communicated always, in all ways. Communicating these values will help ensure each of your employees – from senior management to entry-level – are working towards a common goal and are sharing the same purpose. 

You can establish these values through the way you carry out your meetings. Tai Tsao, who specialises in Change Management, Organizational Development, and Learning, encourages leaders to walk the talk, especially in meetings. 

For example, if your organisation states “transparency” as a core value, think about how it’s being communicated and encouraged in meetings.

  • Do meeting attendees know what the meeting is about?
  • Do they know what the goals of the meeting are?
  • Is the information shared with the rest of the team in a timely manner?
  • Do participants feel comfortable sharing their ideas?
  • Are meeting outcomes and decisions available to those who weren’t present? Or are they only accessible to a select group of people?
  • Do participants feel like certain information is being withheld?

As Bob Pothier, Senior Consulting Partner at Partners In Leadership and a former GE executive, aptly explained

“The strongest message about how you want your culture to perform is embedded in how you conduct your meetings.”

If you haven’t already, now is the time to assess if your meeting practices are promoting or inhibiting the culture you desire.

Do our meetings strengthen the team’s shared identity?

Some companies introduce traditions that work well within the team. The most effective traditions provide meaning to the start and end of meetings, and it could be something as simple and impactful as a quick round-robin about your favourite moment in the past week.

You can take advantage of the first 5 minutes of a meeting to get your team’s expectations aligned with yours. Think about it: it’s hard to build shared experiences and identity with contrasting expectations.

Here are some suggestions on how you could start your meetings:

  • Give recognition: “Before we start, I want to acknowledge Max for the extra effort he’s put in last week for the pitch we had on Monday…”
  • Tell a story that communicates your company’s core values in some way: “Just so we’re on the same page, this happened last week…”
  • Ask for stories or recognition: “Does anyone have a good story or someone we should recognise this week?”
  • Introduce a round of Rose, Thorn, and Bud.
  • Rose: A highlight, success, small win, or something positive that happened.
  • Thorn: A challenge you experienced or something you can use more support with.
  • Bud: New ideas that have bloomed or something you are looking forward to knowing more about or experiencing.

When you encourage positivity and set the right tone at the start of meetings, you will see more of it. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for all teams because it ultimately depends on your overall team dynamic. Here at Remote Social, we’re starting our team meetings with a game of 2 Truths, 1 Lie by a team member each week. It’s pretty fun to learn new things about each other and it also sets a positive tone for our weekly meetings.

At the end of the day, it’s an ongoing experiment for everyone to explore the most effective activity for their teams. What may work for one may not work for another. It’s important to remember though: small changes can create big ripples. When a team changes how they meet, they change their culture – and not always in the way they expect.

Last but not least, everyone’s favourite question: could it have been an email?

This all boils down to defining what a meeting means for the organisation.

By defining what a meeting means for a team, it puts a cap on the ability to mindlessly send another calendar event and forces us to utilise other means of communication. If a meeting is defined as a place for idea generation, discussion, debate, and decision-making, then maybe consider sending that software update in your team’s #updates Slack channel instead. Need to bounce off ideas for the new blog post? Jump on a quick video chat. No need for frivolous meetings!

Interacting with your teammates in non-scheduled ways will eventually increase everyday interpersonal communication. As we elaborated previously, interpersonal communication is vital in keeping teams feel connected. It’s also a subtle but powerful way to influence culture. Ultimately, asynchronous communication works effectively for remote and hybrid teams, especially with issues that don’t actually need real-time attention.

Everything you do affects your company culture. Meetings are no exception, so make sure that your meetings reflect the culture you want in your organisation. Not only do you create the environment your team needs for success, but create opportunities to build stronger, more effective teams.