• Lluís M. Ventura

Why meetings drive your real organizational culture

A shared culture, key to your success

Companies invest a lot in creating a shared organizational culture. Put briefly, this means implementing those values, behaviors, shared vision and practices that shape the environment of an organization. A well-known example of a company making an important investment in their organizational culture is Netflix, where they even offer their employees unlimited vacation time, and affirm that “our version of the great workplace is not comprised of sushi lunches, great gyms, fancy offices or frequent parties. Our version of the great workplace is a dream team in pursuit of ambitious common goals.” Another is Hubspot, whose organizational culture is based on creating a company they love, because, as they say, “whether you like it or not, you're going to have a culture. Why not make it one you love?”

In the end, companies are making a big investment in seeking employees' happiness and shared values, in order to be successful.

Meetings, the unnoticed space of culture creation

However, in many cases, companies don’t pay much attention to meetings, while they are indeed the space where people, teams and departments interact daily. Meetings are where we solve problems, come up with great ideas, align goals, and where employees can feel comfortable and confident to express their opinions.

And not only this: it may seem crazy, but the truth is that meetings can represent up to 1/3 of the company time over a year! And despite all this, meetings are usually opaque, badly structured and without clear objectives. And worst of all, employees often feel they are a waste of time.

Companies need to realize that meetings are the vehicle where culture is created, transferred and experienced, so the way meetings are handled should be a priority within their organizational culture. When the employees are tired, angry, frustrated or bored after a meeting, the company is creating culture, but probably not the one they want (unless their values are tiredness, anger, frustration and boredom; then, sure.)

Are your meetings representing your culture or DO THEY JUST HAPPEN?

There’s a tendency (I think it is not a perception, but a reality) in organizations to meet too much, too often, and without a clear criteria. Even if the meeting takes place on comfy puffs in a super fancy space, that doesn’t mean it illustrates the organizational culture. Sometimes meetings just happen, but they don’t finally solve anything.

Is it accidental that companies like Amazon, Atlassian, Apple, Google Tesla or Drift have established procedures and dynamics for their meetings? Surely not. We all know about Amazon's “silent” meetings or their 2-pizza rule; Netflix’s Patty’s Parting Questions, or Elon Musk's rule to leave the meeting if they realize there is something more productive they could be doing. This is part of their success.

Transparency and awareness are the first steps towards empowering your organizational culture through meetings. And how? Well, our answer is…!

Meetings drive your organizational culture

This is something to bear in mind: the way you meet is the culture you have (and not the other way round). Meetings must serve to empower your values each time you meet. There’s no doubt meetings interfere in people’s mood, for better or worse. Take advantage of meetings, and make sure you are not provoking the opposite of what your business culture claims.

A good way to start is to measure the quality of your meetings. Ask for feedback from the attendees. Why? Because transparency and awareness are the first steps towards empowering your organizational culture through meetings. And how? Well, our answer is…!