Meeting Data Is Culture Data

Meetings are a microcosm of your organization. They are where culture gets shaped, true values are revealed, and belonging cues are sent and received. If you espouse a culture of innovation, but shut down contrarian ideas in meetings, it’s false advertising. If you claim to be egalitarian, but dominate meetings, your people know they’re really in a hierarchy. If you want to be nimble but consistently have meetings with more than 10 people, you aren’t. In short: meetings tell you everything you need to know about how things actually work on your team.

That’s not new news, but this is: The pandemic has ushered in a new era in which every meeting is virtual and the vast majority happen over video conferencing technology such as Zoom or Webex. That means you can record any meeting (with transparency and permission, of course). Recording a meeting produces a video and a transcript that is a powerful tool to reveal patterns and quantify the human experience.

For example:

  • Airtime:  Calculate the amount of time that each person speaks in a meeting. Segment by gender, race, seniority, role, or by other another assessment tool, such as insights color.
  • Respect: Evaluate the timeliness of attendees. Count the number of interruptions and note who is interrupting whom.
  • Inclusion: Count the number of times quieter attendees are invited into the conversation, assess the use of the chat function to increase participation, and calculate the balance of assertions versus questions.

Once you have the data from several meetings, aggregate it, represent it visually, and reflect on what you see. Do all members of your team have an equal voice, regardless of race or gender?  Are extroverts failing to create space for introverted thinkers? Are senior people consistently arriving late, suggesting their time is more important than others? Do you have meetings of 7+ people, but only 3–4 active participants?

You can tailor your analysis to your priorities. If you’re aiming to increase accountability, analyze the number and quality of action agreements. If you’re fostering collaboration, count the number of “yes and . . . ” type statements.

Everything you need to know about your organization is revealed through meetings. Now you have an opportunity to tap into that source of insight and apply it to cultivate an intentional culture that reflects your values and priorities.

Shani Harmon and Renee Cullinan founded Stop Meeting Like This to change the way the world works. Follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter, and subscribe to their quarterly newsletter.