On hearing the phrase “company culture,” perks like a casual dress-code, an office ping-pong table, or unlimited PTO may spring to mind.
Those can all be great things that reflect a culture, but company culture is bigger and far more core to your company and its mission. As Forbes defines it, company culture represents the vision, values, assumptions, beliefs and habits embedded in a company’s genetic code. In other words, it’s the set of signals about what your company stands for. And whether you realize it or not, you send those signals to employees, prospects and customers in everything you do.
Which brings us to your meetings. What do they reveal about your company culture?
Here are three common meeting habits that could be communicating the wrong message about your company — and ideas for correcting them.
Do your meetings usually start or end late?
This is probably the most common issue. If it happens regularly it could send the message that you don’t keep your promises, you don’t value employees’ time, or that you’re just inefficient and unorganized.
Meetings that start or end a couple minutes late aren’t a huge deal, but they’re also not conveying a positive message. Now if you’re consistently going over 15 minutes and beyond, you’re clearly telling people you don’t respect their time and that you and your company aren’t very organized.
If you’re on a roll, and you want to keep the meeting going, that’s great! But those instances should be few and far between, reserved for those golden meetings where everyone is energized and wants to keep the momentum going.
Make starting and ending your meeting on time a priority.
If you’re running a meeting in your office, make sure you (and any other presenters) are in the meeting room before game time. This way attendees know you’re prepared and want to make the most of their time. Even if all attendees haven’t arrived, start on time. The late-comers will get the message and adjust their expectations and behavior.
If you’re hosting a video conference, where people will be joining online from different locations, make sure the meeting link is available in the meeting invite so there’s no last-minute scrambling. And have whatever you want people to see when they join onscreen — a title slide, your smiling face, etc. before the meeting begins.
Same goes for your meeting’s end time: stick to it, even if your meeting isn’t completely concluded. If it’s really important to keep going, make sure to check with everyone that going beyond the scheduled end time is okay. If not, schedule a follow-up meeting, and think about how you can present or collaborate more efficiently next time.
Do your meetings lack focus and a clear purpose?
A meandering meeting does more harm than just sapping everyone’s energy and undermining their confidence in the company. (Although, as research suggests, you’re probably doing that as well.)
It sends the signal that your company lacks a clear sense of direction and purpose. If your company has well-defined priorities, most meetings will reflect it. But if everyone comes to a meeting with conflicting goals and priorities, it’s clear you have bigger organizational issues going on.
Prepare and send out a clear agenda to every attendee before every meeting.
When you send attendees a clear agenda prior to your meeting, you demonstrate you’ve thought through the meeting’s specific goals. You also show you want attendees to have time to prepare and come ready to discuss. If you find that many meetings aren’t constructive because no one is working together toward a goal, you may have some prioritizing and organization to do at a higher level.
Do some attendees criticize or dominate? Do others feel uncomfortable speaking up?
Does one person usually do all the talking during meetings? Or do people frequently interrupt or talk over one another? This signals that you’re not a team; you’re a company of individual competitors.
Debate can be useful in a meeting. Sometimes it’s the only way to settle a disagreement or uncover an important truth. But everyone should be able to share their opinions without screaming, insulting anyone, or dominating the conversation.
After all, some of your team might be more introverted than others. Allowing negativity or personal criticisms to become an acceptable behavior can make introverts feel even less comfortable contributing.
No one should be allowed to take over the discussion, consume the majority of the meeting’s time, or shut down other attendees’ ability to contribute.
Don’t allow those behaviors to become the norm, or else you’ll help create a company that is a stressful and miserable place to work.
Be your meeting’s debate moderator. Implement a zero-tolerance policy for anything other than respectful, professional debates where everyone has an opportunity to speak.
When attendees know they can voice their opinions without fear of someone cutting them off and taking over the conversation, you help create a team environment that fosters more open, honest discussion. And this translates directly to an enhanced sense of teamwork and community among employees.
If you’re meeting with remote employees, make sure everyone has the chance to contribute. Sometimes remote team members can feel cut off from the group, so call them out specifically and ask if they have anything to add.
Next time you’re running a meeting, think about what the experience is telling your coworkers. Use these everyday interactions to foster a positive workplace that promotes a vibrant and healthy company culture.
Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below!