Meetings: The Petri Dish of Company Culture


Benjamin Franklin famously said nothing in this world is certain except death and taxes. However, the average American worker would probably add meetings to that list. Research reveals that corporate executives spend nearly 23 hours every week in meetings, and the average employee attends 62 meetings per month. A quick search for “meeting management tools” will return 204 million results on Google ranging from software to apps to articles sharing how to make meetings more bearable.

Somewhere along the way, meetings gained a bad reputation. They are viewed as events to tolerate in the workplace, rather than opportunities for growth and connection.

Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and the less well-known book, Death By Meeting would say it is because most meetings are boring and that you need healthy conflict to make the meeting more interesting and more productive.

I agree with Lencioni and believe that meetings are also the perfect medium for growing company culture.

Define Your Desired Culture

No matter what a company says their values are, what really creates that culture and shared meaning is what actually happens. For example, if your company says that everyone’s voice matters, yet only certain people are comfortable speaking up or sharing ideas, that is an indicator that your desired culture doesn’t match your current reality. Behaviors speak louder than words.

Once you have identified the culture you desire, conduct a gap analysis. What behaviors are you currently getting, and what experiences are you creating that allows or causes those behaviors to occur? What can you do in meetings to reinforce the culture so that it reflects the values your company wants to embrace?

I teach in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program and one of the scholars has a impactful practice for doing this. The company has defined five core values. Those values are written on a white board wall in the conference room. Each morning during the all staff meeting, at least one team member provides a specific example of how one of their colleagues exemplified one of the values. The example is written under that value. At the end of the month there are at least 20 real-life illustrations of how the organization is living its values.

Use Meetings to Create Experience

Every meeting is an opportunity for leaders to create experiences and develop desired company culture.

The key is to be intentional about each meeting. Think about the behavior you want to exhibit as you lead the meeting, and what behaviors you want team members to have. For example, if you want a culture that embraces debate and dialogue, you must first be comfortable with leading and moderating those conversations and managing healthy conflict.

Experiences drive beliefs, and beliefs drive behaviors. If you want to change behavior, start with experience that is being created.

Make the Most of Meetings

The beauty of using meetings to drive company culture is that you’re already scheduling and hosting them! There is no additional cost to make existing meetings better; you are simply changing the format to develop high performing teams and ramp up productivity.

Rather than scouring Google for the right app or meeting management tool, focus your time and efforts on creating a meeting experience that will help develop your company culture in positive ways. It’s an investment that will provide more returns than any software ever could.

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