Column by VerticalResponse CEO/Founder Janine Popick, Inc.com "Basement to Boardroom" March 14, 2012
I admit it, all-hands meetings are a tough one, especially if you've got a larger small business. At my company, VerticalResponse, we were once split between two floors in a building and didn't have the luxury of space to get everyone together. Once we had a webinar because it got cost prohibitive to get everyone into a local hotel meeting room. Not to mention, I'm not a fan of huge meetings. (My team will tell you that!) I want to talk to everyone about the future of the company and get them as jazzed as I am about it, but I also know it takes a ton of people away from their jobs, and some might look at it as a PITA (pain in the a**).
On top of it all, if my team knew how much I belabored the details of the company meeting, they'd die. Why? Because there's no BS. I'm talking to people I know, love and trust. They work tirelessly for our customers and I care about each and every one of them. I underestimate the power of my enthusiasm to get people excited about what we do every day, because sometimes the big picture is lost in the details of everyone's daily life.
But I've come to understand more and more that this is exactly what's needed in our company, and likely your company. The organization has to be marching toward the same goals and if one part of the team isn't, you know it right away.
Of course, after an all-hands meeting you might get some not-so-positive comments back. You didn't highlight enough departments (you never can). You didn't single out and give kudos to all of the members of the team you could have (you never do). You could have gone deeper into the XYZ topic (you always could). But generally, if you've got a great message to deliver to your team, and you get them excited about where you're going as a company, you need to be doing these meetings more often than not–at least quarterly, in my opinion.
Right after our company-wide meeting, all 100-plus of us get together and have pizza, because people are abuzz about what we've just talked about, and they want to know more and they want to contribute–which is exactly what you want in your team.
So what we've found to be the best way to communicate to our team is over-communicating. We've got monthly newsletters where each department can describe what they're working on and what they've accomplished. The execs take employees from different teams out to lunch for an open forum so they can ask questions (and so can we!). And now we're going to do all-hands meetings more often, because the more information your team has, the more they're likely to care.
Do you have regular all-hands meetings? Love to hear how they go!