During my culture definition workshops I challenge the teams that I work with to come up with simple ideas that they can immediately implement in order to positively evolve their culture. The exercise demonstrates just how easy it is to transform the daily micro-experiences that form ‘the way we do things around here’. Lots of great ideas are generated and their implementation is a demonstration of what is possible when people have the opportunity to work together (rather than being told) to find smarter ways to do things based on the new cultural foundations that they’ve built. Here are five things that my clients have implemented that you can also do. Some will require more courage than others, however, with a little planning you too can reap the benefits these activities provide.
1 ⚡ Meeting free weeks — Do you take one look at your calendar and think that this is impossible to do? That’s exactly why you need to recognise just how bad for productive work (and good for bringing on burnout) endless meetings are. One team I work with instigated a ‘circuit breaker’ and had a week without meetings with the aim of doing things differently the following week. Most teams need to reduce the amount of time they spend in meetings in order to increase productivity, this is a great starting point and something that even Google has done.
2 ⚡ Using technology to socially interact — Social interactivity increased by 10% during COVID, yet once the initial excitement of (virtual) Friday drinks had worn off, people stopped turning up and eventually the events got cancelled. Gather is a great example of a desktop app that can be used to not only encourage social interaction between staff, but also to keep it continually fresh and interesting by including opportunities for guest speakers and different communities/clubs within the team. Socially interacting with the team adds to the sense of belonging that people feel, as well as increasing trust, engagement and collaboration.
3 ⚡ Chat with the Chief — Being visible to staff is a vital part of leadership, yet many senior managers don’t know how (or don’t want!) to do this. By instigating regular sessions, you can change this dynamic. Chats with the Chief (or as one leader that I’m working with calls hers ‘Muffins with Mel’!) allow for employees to spend time with senior leaders, ask them questions about strategy or else just get to know them more personally. This in turn increases communication, trust and vulnerability. At one organisation I worked with, this idea was so popular the CEO had a waiting list!
4 ⚡ Mindful Mondays — Aimed at encouraging staff to take a complete break at regular stages of the day, these are 30 minute mindfulness sessions that are run in person or virtually. If you have a mindfulness practitioner on the team even better, however, all that’s required is a subscription to an app such as Headspace and for everyone to agree on a convenient time. One team I worked with took this a step further and implemented 20-minutes of mindfulness every day at lunch time. As a result, people feel more refreshed for their afternoon work and the initiative has spread to other areas of the organisation.
5 ⚡ Lunch and Learn — Silos are removed when every team takes the time to define its culture in the same way and instigates activity to improve relationships, both internally and externally. One department that I worked with decided to introduce monthly lunch and learn sessions, where every month a different team would present on the top three things they were working on, their top three challenges and top three opportunities. These sessions continue to increase empathy, understanding and communication between the teams.
Culture evolves every day. If you’re not taking steps to improve it then chances are it’s getting a little bit worse. These five ideas are a step in the right direction.