For 25 years, I worked for, with and as the CEO of several companies. I attended and conducted many company meetings. Most were pretty similar. The CEO got up and gave a "state of the union." Another executive then got up and gave an update on the upcoming product releases before the CEO got back up to tell everyone, "Let's go sell more!"
I know. I've given the speech myself.
I remember the day I was exposed to a different kind of company meeting. As an advisor to CEOs, I'm supposed to be the one giving suggestions and ideas on how to improve the company. This time, I was the student.
Patrick Townsend, founder and CEO of Townsend Security, orchestrated a new approach to the company meeting. Rather than creating a "Rah! Rah!" state-of-the-company, pump-you-up, traditional kind of meeting, he simply exhibited his natural character and trusted his team to conduct the meeting. One after another, his team members gave not only an assessment of the year and an update on what they're planning to do next year, but they educated the rest of the organization on what they do. They accomplished this with humor, candor and authenticity. They exhibited the openness and respect that can only happen when they feel free to make mistakes and fail forward.
The format was simple. Patrick opened the meeting with a discussion about the character and values of the company, and reviewed where the company began. He then turned it over to his team for the rest of the day. It was the ultimate in empowerment. Patrick didn't even evaluate the presentations before his team gave them. He saw them for the first time along with the rest of the company — at the meeting.
We didn't see Patrick again until the end, when he said next year would be even better because of how the company would execute against the goals the team leaders had established for themselves.
The culture at Townsend Security is a direct reflection of its founder and CEO. This organization functions effectively because Patrick allows the leadership team the latitude to fail forward. The company culture encourages mistakes as part of the learning process and, as a result, ideas flow freely.
My reason for telling this story is to encourage the learning that can come from it. During this time as a student, I took copious notes, simply hoping that my learning could be used to model doing the right things.
What do your company meetings look like? Are you leveraging them to both build and reflect the kind of culture that is driving the organization where you want to go?