Here at Carson Design Associates, we host a quarterly all-staff meeting in which we invite our entire team to meet in the same room at the same time – both in-house and remote employees — and engage together as a team.
We use these quarterly team meetings as our avenue for transparency as a company, sharing financials, upcoming projects, and business updates. We also use it as a platform for celebrating our work and giving kudos to standout team members that quarter.
But in hindsight, something was always broken with these meetings.
Our Formal Gathering
In the past, these meetings were hosted in our large conference room, with its long table and encircling chairs. With a fairly corporate feel, the space layout encouraged a very hierarchical standpoint, where the group leaders presented to the team members. For two hours, everyone sat in formal chairs staring up at a presentation. And although we encouraged feedback and interaction, we oftentimes found ourselves calling on people to keep them engaged, verses people feeling comfortable sharing freely.
As a result, the environment always felt very formal and void of any excitement or enthusiasm — not at all how we view ourselves as an organization.
Going More Casual
And so, our leadership team decided to switch up the meeting location to a more casual and interactive environment. We had just redesigned our office space at the time to include a new lounge area, and so we made the decision to move the the quarterly meeting there. And what a difference it made!
Here are some the changes we experienced:
With new and different seating options in the lounge, the group now interacts more freely and with more emotion. With people sitting on sofas, on chairs, and even standing, we’ve seen a shift in body language. People speak up more, with the removed formality of “I’m supposed to raise my hand,” like we had in the conference room. Now, it’s like a big family sitting around the family room.
With the right technology in place, the person leading the presentation can now sit in any corner of the space — removing the formality of one presenter at the front of the room and creating a more engaged conversation-like feel throughout the meeting.
No longer does a leader stand in front of the group, but rather the team now makes decisions together. We all have something to contribute, and the more casual environment gives everyone the ability to share.
We also changed the way we engage as a team. Now, we send out a prompt before each meeting and ask for everyone to bring their own ideas. This shift to the agenda, along with the change of spaces, empowers each person to share, interject and ask questions.
. . .
Perhaps there are some small changes you can make to create a more casual environment in your team meetings that better liberates your team members to feel more comfortable.
For us, this simple move to a new meeting location made a huge difference for our company culture. We now have a more natural, comfortable, inviting and collaborative staff meeting that aligns with the type of company culture we strive to create.
What small changes have you made in your space to impact the social dynamics in your office? We’d love to hear!