As leaders of companies, everything we do matters. How we design and lead meetings matters, too. Here at Growmotely, we’re not about having millions of meetings, but we do recognize the importance of gathering. We see ‘getting together’ – when we do it – as a way to create more of what we want when it comes to company culture.
In the vacuum of ‘context’ that typically characterizes in-person meetings (i.e. meeting in a coffee shop ‘sets the scene’ in a different way than meeting in a boardroom does), we have a chance here to really customize – in a mindful way – the virtual space in which we gather.
Let’s dive in more!
Priya Parker is one of the most incredible facilitators on the ‘meetings scene’ today. She is author of the book ‘The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters’. Her work is ground-breaking.
Here are four tips – that are inspired by her work.
Tip Number One: Define – with 100% clarity – the PURPOSE of the meeting
We know! This is such an obvious one. But taking out the garbage when it stinks is obvious, too; it doesn’t mean we do it.
Purpose is a powerful tool. It gives us a benchmark – something that we can come back to and ask: How did we do? What might we do differently next time to more fully fulfil our purpose?
It also allows us to cross-check what we are doing on ‘the runway’ with the greater purpose of our company. Is everything aligned?
A couple of questions to ask if you’re struggling to find the purpose:
What is at the heart of this gathering?
What is the most important need for this group to gather around?
And here’s an extra-credit assignment for those who are ambitious: define the purpose of the purpose, and then the purpose of that purpose. This is called ‘chunking up’, and in our experience, the more you ‘chunk up’, the more difficult the exercise gets – but the more rewarding it becomes.
Tip Number Two: Try ‘taking a stand’
This is an incredibly unexpected – but juicy – tip when it comes to gathering.
‘Taking a stand’ entails that we we stick our necks out a bit – and refuse to be everything to everyone.
As an example: our CEO and Founder Sarah Hawley recently conducted a visualization exercise with our whole team at an All-Hands Team Meeting. You can read about it here. Participating in this exercise was surely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but that didn’t stop her. You could say that she was taking this stand: it is vitally important that we – as leaders and as a company – be courageous and try on for size new ways of being with each other and new ways of creating.
‘Taking a stand’ when it comes to meetings is about putting it all out there. Going bold – or going home.
Tip Number Three: Let’s put some thought into what we call our meetings
Words matter. And language matters.
In this brilliant meeting makeover podcast with Brené Brown, Priya Parker questions Ms. Brown on her choice of name for the meeting that is being made-over; it’s called ‘Campfire.’ Whereas this particular name evokes warm feelings and cozy images, is the name supporting the purpose of the meeting? Or is it undermining it? And: is the name “helping the attendees know what their roles should be in the meeting”? As remote leaders, names become even more important to our meetings because of the relative lack of physical cues in our online spaces. Let’s get them right.
And for those of us who are leading globally-distributed teams:
Have we checked with the appropriate people to see what the names used for team meetings evokes for them? Translations may vary.
Have we polled our team members on what sort of names are used for meetings – and for gatherings – in their native language? This might be a chance to enrich our company’s globally-minded culture by pulling some of those in.
Tip Number Four: Create a mechanism to showcase company culture by bringing the informal into the formal
What are some of the ‘around-the-edges’ things that you value about in-person meetings that get lost easily in your virtual meetings?
For example, often people hit the ‘mute’ button when they aren’t speaking in a virtual meeting – which is by and large considered good form. However – the downside to that is that we miss out on extracurricular noises, laughs and comments that add color and vitality to meetings.
How can we bring some of these things back in?
In the aforementioned podcast episode, Brené Brown shares the ‘check-out’ question that worked wonders on this front for one of her company’s virtual meetings: ‘If we were all standing here at the bar talking, what is something that you would share – that you haven’t shared because you didn’t think it was important enough to share in a meeting?’
And Priya Parker confides that ‘the chat box is my secret weapon‘. She likes to get people ‘chatting’ there within the first 5% of the gathering, asking participants to offer their responses to a slew of off-beat and rousing questions.
Investing our time as leaders in planning our meetings and our gatherings in a conscious way can springboard the cultures we are looking to create.
The Future of Work is a place where we take the time to do this.