Managers: What do your meetings say about your culture?

Advice from Jill Geisler, Bill Plante Chair in Leadership & Media Integrity, Loyola University Chicago and Freedom Forum Fellow in Women’s Leadership

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.

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Stan Knott
Stan Knott
1 month ago

Great take. Early in my career an outside visitor made a comment to me about meeting culture which had a deep and lasting impact. It’s so important to look in the mirror and do a true assessment, and do it daily!

Jill Geisler
Jill Geisler
1 month ago
Reply to  Stan Knott

Great advice, Stan! — Jill

Sal Morales
Sal Morales
1 month ago

Great teams are built on the shoulders of many, who have given a lot for the company’s common good. Interesting and provocative piece. Gracias for posting.

Jill Geisler
Jill Geisler
1 month ago
Reply to  Sal Morales

Thanks back at you, Sal!