team building

Five decades of research shows the huge impact of organizational culture on outcomes like Return on Investment, stock prices, service/quality levels, productivity, sales, profitability, cost-effectiveness, and similar results.

Organizational culture is also a key factor in levels of employee engagement, extra effort, innovation, morale, and teamwork. “Magnet cultures” attract and retain the best people. Or not. One study found “a toxic corporate culture is by far the strongest predictor of industry-adjusted attrition and is 10 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover.”

LinkedIn comments on, We’ve GOT to Stop Meeting Like This, showed agreement on the vital role of meetings, but frustration with the poor — often abysmal — quality of many meetings. When EFFECTIVELY run, meetings transform from a waste of time and source of frustration to vital organization/team leverage points.

Meetings Reflect and Reinforce Organizational Culture

In his book, Holography, Fouad Sabry writes, “When a hologram is cut in half, the whole scene can still be seen in each piece. This is because, whereas each point in a photograph only represents light scattered from a single point in the scene, each point on a holographic recording includes information about light scattered from every point in the scene.”

The Spanish novelist and dramatist, Cervantes, wrote, “By a small sample we may judge of the whole piece.” Meetings represent values, like points of light emanating from, and projecting to, every part of the organization’s culture.

Taken together, an organization’s meetings are its culture. For better or worse, each meeting ripples out to further reinforce the organization’s culture. Good, bad, or ugly meetings showcase and bolster the same organizational culture.

Meeting Behavior

Organization/Department Culture

Potshots, “humorous” zingers, putdowns, and stones in snowballs. Turf protecting, departmentalism, and silos.
Meetings rarely start and stop on time. Time isn’t used strategically. People feel overwhelmed by constant urgencies and crisis.
No agendas or prioritizing of agenda items. Everyone is stupid busy. Goals and priorities are confusing and conflicting.
Participants text/e-mail, take phone calls, and wander in and out of meetings. Smart people underperform as Attention Deficit Trait (ADT) dumbs everyone down and ups stress and conflict.
Participants cut each other off and engage in side conversations. High cynicism and mistrust. People rarely listen to customers or each other.
Cameras are off during online meetings. Multi-tasking diverts attention from what others are saying or what they want.
Death by PowerPoint, endless reporting with little discussion, and no real debates. Inward and top-down organizations often make customers do the Bureaucratic Boogie.
Meeting frequency and processes follow same old routines. Change management processes create more rigidity and less agility.
Some topics and discussions are politically charged and avoided. Smothering silence stifles openness in dealing with key issues — until they blindside leaders.

How Are Your Meetings Reflecting or Reinforcing Your Culture?

Do you sometimes want to cover your mouth with multiple face masks to keep from screaming when a meeting goes off track or pointlessly drags on? How do your meeting participants feel?

Look at your meetings. What do they say about meeting leadership and culture? Who attends them? Who gets most of the airtime? How much diversity is encouraged? How is conflict handled? What process do you use for problem-solving? Are there often two distinct groups: active participants and quiet spectators?

When leaders sharpen their meeting leadership skills and practice good meeting hygiene, team collaboration, psychological safety to speak up, team results, engagement, and energy levels soar. Many pre-post studies show increases of 40 – 50%.

Given that meetings are such a big source of frustration, overall job satisfaction often jumps when meeting effectiveness goes up. It’s like getting that Bull Moose hoof off your aching foot; it feels so good to relieve the pain and walk again!

Meeting Expectations: What’s Your Learning Agility?

One of the Zenger Folkman leadership competencies that correlates to greater effectiveness is Learning Agility. ZF’s 360 research shows that leaders with the highest levels of learning agility make a real effort to improve based on feedback, actively look for opportunities to get feedback, quickly adapts his or her approach to other people’s need or situation, and creates an atmosphere pushing self and others to exceed expected results.

Periodically involving participants in meeting checkups will keep making your meetings better. This can be done through anonymous surveys, third-party interviews, “moose hunting” exercises, or asking what should we keep/stop/start doing to continually improve our meetings. Check out our meeting effectiveness checklist to see how it might help strengthen your online and in-person meetings.

Are You Smartening Up or Dumbing Down Your Team?

In Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis & Annie McKee write, “in the last few decades much research has proven the superiority of group decision making over that of even the brightest individual in the group. There is one exception to this rule. If the group lacks harmony or the ability to cooperate, decision-making quality and speed suffer…. even groups comprising brilliant individuals will make bad decisions if the group disintegrates into bickering, interpersonal rivalry, or power plays…. collective emotional intelligence is what sets top-performing teams apart from average teams…”

The humorist, Dave Barry, said, “if you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.'” Yikes! A bit harsh and cynical. But whose fault are bad meetings? If a smartphone sends dumb communications, it’s not the phone’s fault. It’s user error.

If a group of smart people acts like it’s a meeting for dummies, it’s time for the meeting leader to look more deeply in the mirror — and their hologram.