You can learn a lot about a team’s culture simply by watching how their meetings run. You might be too accustomed to your own habits (that’s what culture is about) to see what an outsider would. But imagine for a moment that someone is taking notes on how things go.
- How do people relate to each other as they assemble? Are there genuine interpersonal connections, superficial pleasantries, or a strictly-business start?
- Are there any standing rituals that people seem to enjoy? What’s their purpose?
- Is there an agenda (formal or informal), and if so, is it followed?
- How diverse is the group?
- Who leads the meeting, and why?
- Do people in certain roles speak first, or more than others?
- If some people speak less, is it by choice (they’re introverts and like to process before piping up) or by role or tenure – or hesitancy?
- Does the group work to ensure all voices are heard?
- When ideas are batted around, do people challenge ideas constructively? Can people differ without being dismissive of each other as people?
- Do people seem to be reluctant to disagree, especially with the most powerful folks in the group? Is there a conscious effort to solicit candor, so as to avoid groupthink?
- Are there references to professional or team values during the conversations?
- Do people openly share credit with each other and take blame for goof-ups?
- If this is a “hybrid” meeting of in-person and remote attendees, do people make intentional efforts to ensure the remote folks are full participants?
- When the meeting ends, are there clear “next steps”? Do people leave knowing what each is responsible for and by when?
- Did the meeting appear efficient, effective, and even enjoyable?
Think about this list next time your team gathers. Or better yet, share the list with colleagues before your next meeting and see if they already have answers to those questions – for better or worse. You’re not just working to improve your meetings, you are working on upgrading your culture.