A multi-day leadership conference is a significant cultural event. The meeting can solidify the status quo, it can reinforce the most dysfunctional aspects of your organization, or it can leverage your best of your workplace culture.
Ask most people about their last managers meeting or leadership summit and they are likely to say that they got the most value out of a few offline conversations. Many managers set the bar so incredibly low for these meetings that they hope for just one thing of value out of a daylong or multi-day investment. Much more is possible from a well designed leadership meeting. Consider these three design traps to avoid and three design questions to ask in order to create a meeting that reinforces and builds upon the best of your unique company culture.
3 Design Traps
Trap #1: Designing the meeting around content – believing more is better.
The conceit here is that people just need to know more in order to produce the desired results. Shared knowledge is critical, but ask yourself if this gathering is really the right place to disseminate information when virtual platforms can be so much more efficient and user-specific.
Trap #2: Designing the meeting to avoid tough issues.
A metaphorical herd of elephants can gather under the tables at poorly implemented gatherings. The real value of a face-to-face session is the ability to share different perspectives and learn and align toward common goals. A jam-packed agenda is often the symptom of a culture unwilling to address the real tensions.
Trap #3: Designing experiences that conflict with stated company values.
We can’t tell you how many times we’ve asked our clients to reconsider experiences that promote unhealthy internal competition, male dominance, and other disconnects with their stated values.
Now that you have steered clear of the worst design traps, here are some questions to help you design a leadership gathering that will reinforce the best of your company culture.
3 Design Questions
Question #1: What new information do we need to learn together at this particular time?
Any content should serve thoughtful interactions among the meeting participants. An inspirational speaker, for example, can work well if participants are able to discuss how they will apply the ideas in their world. An informational presentation can spur important conversations about how to respond based upon the new data.
Question #2: What critical issues or tensions are we experiencing and how can we talk about them?
All organizations experience multiple tensions. Smart leaders create conditions in which the tensions are named and addressed. This is how organizations evolve. If the tensions remain under the table, then the leaders are experienced as inauthentic and the organization stalls. A well-designed conference will identify a few critical issues and make real progress toward addressing the tensions.
Question #3: What experiences might bolster the best of our workplace values and culture?
Walk through your entire design from a participant’s perspective and ask how they will experience each aspect of the program. Everything about your leadership conference should reflect the best of your culture in action. If the venue, the meals, the location, the speakers, the activities, the conversations, etc. etc. don’t reflect the best of your culture, change the design. A well designed conference should create conditions for participants to become smarter, more connected, and more aligned in order to be as effective as possible as a leadership team.
Greg Ranstrom helps leaders make their culture work. Learn about our seven-step approach to building your unique and vital culture at gregranstrom.com.