Posts

How our Team Meetings Went from Average to Awesome

team meeting illustration

The Fitzii team works mainly out of two offices in the greater Toronto area and there is also a fair amount of remote and flexible working happening. Early on we held monthly all-hands meetings with the intention of getting everyone together, keeping up-to-date, discussing team-wide topics, and helping build stronger relationships. The first few meetings were great – we shared updates, progress and challenges and it helped build understanding of what everyone was working on.

After some months the meetings were becoming less and less valuable and energizing. The updates weren’t relevant to everyone anymore and getting the right level of detail for the various team members was impossible. Then we had a revelation. We were wasting our valuable face-to-face time by focusing on the wrong things! It was time to rethink our monthly meetings and the things we changed have turned them from average to awesome.

Updates

There were some issues with doing general updates in our monthly meetings. We had people in the room who had heard the update before, others for whom the updates weren’t relevant, and times where an update led to a conversation that took the meeting off-track. The end result was low meeting engagement and efficiency. We also tended to focus more on the previous week as it was hard to select (or recall) the relevant things to update on from four weeks before.

We realized updates weren’t something which required our precious face-to-face time. So one of the major changes we made was to remove this section from the meetings entirely. Instead, we’ve moved to individual weekly updates that each person posts to our team social media feed (we use Yammer).

One person kicks off with a “what’s happened this week” post and everyone else replies with their own. We’ve been doing this for nine months now and it works extremely well. It saves time, allows for more detail, and the discussion it leads to adds a ton of value.

Team Building

Another revelation we had was that because we’re not all in the same office, using our face-to-face time together to build stronger relationships would be of much more value than just sharing information.

To help us get to know each other better, and encourage people to bring their “whole selves” to work, we’ve tried a few fun activities:

Team Balderdash

Based on the Balderdash board game, we prepared a list of questions like: “What is your favorite movie?”, “What were winters like when you were young?” and “You’re on death row. What’s your last meal request?”. One person is the facilitator and asks a few of the questions while the others secretly write down their answers. The facilitator then reads out the answers for each question and everyone has to guess which answer belongs to which team member, and the person with the most answers correct wins. This was a lot of fun, and definitely helped us get to know each other. But why people were so shocked that my favorite movie is Cleopatra, I don’t know.

Ask Me Anything (AMA)

For the Fitzii version of an AMA, one team member is selected to go on the hot seat each meeting. The rest of the team then takes turns asking them anything. Questions have included:

What’s a secret you’ve never told anyone?

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

What would constitute a perfect day for you?

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

Which six people living or dead would you invite for dinner?

What one thing would you change about working here?

This activity has been an amazing way to build relationships and help everyone bring their whole selves to work. If you’re looking for question ideas, these 36 that were in the press earlier this year are a good starting point.

Agenda and Format

One deceptively simple but effective change we made was to move away from one person controlling the agenda (a source of some power in traditional organizations). Instead we have the grandiosely named, but ridiculously simple “Fancy Agenda Tracker”. This is an Excel sheet containing the date, time and length of the upcoming monthly meetings that is open for anyone to edit. The only fixed items are a quick financial review (10 minutes) and lunch (we take turns to organize). The rest of the agenda is populated by the team based on what’s on their minds or what they have to share. It’s then circulated the week before the meeting and the team gives input on what should be prioritized if there are too many topics for the 2 hours. Here’s a recent example:

Fitzii Team Meeting Agenda

Another neat tool we use is the Executive Decision Maker, which is a homemade device built by our lead developer that works like a magic 8-ball. We use this to make lightly contentious decisions and prevent those painful “who wants to go next? … I don’t mind, you go…. No after you, really…” situations.

Fitzii EDM2

Attention and Focus

We use tingshas to indicate the start and end of the meeting.  These are meant to signal that our focus is on the team and we’re checking self-interest at the door. We read in Reinventing Organizations that some Teal organizations use the tingshas as a mechanism for reflection during a meeting if a participant feels the ground rules are not being respected – they ring the cymbals and everyone pauses to reflect on their contribution to the topic under discussion. We haven’t been following this process, because we haven’t really needed to yet, but it would be interesting to try.

Team members will also often suggest activities to help with mindfulness and meeting engagement. These have included gratitude exercises, quick meditations and activity breaks.

From Average to Awesome

All in all, we’ve found these changes have increased the effectiveness and engagement of our meetings incredibly. Alongside our individual weekly updates, the monthly get-togethers now achieve our goals of having open and vulnerable communication while fostering closer ties between the various individual and functional groups at Fitzii.

Are your team meetings due for a makeover? Here’s hoping that you raise the bar from “average” to “awesome”, and experiment with new ways to maximize your team’s face-to-face time. And if you have some uniquely engaging team meeting practices we’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Three Tools to Unlock Wholeness at Work

 

The concept of self-management is in the news a lot these days – mostly thanks to Tony Hsieh’s Holacracy implementation at Zappos.

Like Fitzii did in February, Zappos and now many other organizations around the world are experimenting with structures that don’t involve traditional managers.

This movement was inspired by the breakthrough book, Reinventing Organizations, which coined the term Teal to describe these new organizations.

Self-management is just one of the three breakthroughs of Teal organizations. The other two are evolutionary purpose and the practice of wholeness.

In an upcoming article, we’ll describe evolutionary purpose and how it’s in play at Fitzii. Today we’ll focus on how we’ve unlocked wholeness at Fitzii.

 

Apple and Orange differenceWholeness

As radical as organizing ourselves without traditional managers sounds, building an organization where every individual can bring his or her whole self to work, every day, is as radical, probably more.

In traditional organizations a certain degree of personal conformity is expected. The more rigid the hierarchy, the more personal conformity seems to go on. Look up the leadership of a big bank or large public corporation if you’re not sure what I mean.

For many people, working in those organizations means leaving part of themselves at the door – fundamental personal attributes like spirituality, sexual orientation, family status, health, or even dress preferences, personal interests, and sense of humour.

Every time we leave some fundamental personal attribute at the door, we send a subtle message to ourselves that we are valued for our ability to conform. Later, we scratch our heads at the lack of diversity and creativity in our organizations, or worse, feel parts of ourselves have to die off in exchange for a paycheck.

“You can measure an organization by the number of lies you need to tell to be part of it.”

Parker Palmer

Teal organizations strive to open the door to every coworker’s wholeness – inviting people to walk through the door with everything that makes them who they are – mind, body, and spirit.

It’s not a utopia – radical wholeness takes effort, design, time; it results in conflict. In Teal organizations, though, healthy conflict is a precondition to creativity and progress.

 

 

Three Tools We Use to Unlock Wholeness at Work

At Fitzii, we’ve been inspired by other Teal organizations’ wholeness practices, especially those related to meetings. We’ve tried a lot of those practices and will discuss them in a future post.

We’ve also tried out a few tools to better understand ourselves and each other, and have found three to be especially valuable for encouraging wholeness:

 

the enneagram of personality

The Enneagramthe Enneagram is personality typology with nine types. In my experience, the Enneagram is much different than other personality typologies – like, for example, the very popular Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Unlike the MBTI, the Enneagram gives you a predictable direction for personal growth. So many people at Fitzii have found the Enneagram useful for self-development and resolving conflict that we often refer to each other by our type numbers – a practice that has confused more than one curious eavesdropper. If you’re curious to use this tool for your own growth, start with The Wisdom of the Enneagram book by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson. 

 

The Five Love Languages – someone recommended this book to me before I got married. Truthfully, it’s both a little bit of pop-psych fluff and one of the most helpful interpersonal tools I’ve ever used. The theory is we give and receive love in five different “languages” – words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, quality time, and physical touch. We often give in the way we hope to receive and get frustrated when we’re not loved back in the way we want. My language of choice, for example, is physical touch. A simple pat on the back or a high five can lead me to feel valued and accepted. Touch is not the common language of affirmation in North American business culture, but for me, the principle of wholeness at work and the insight of the Five Love Languages has allowed me to ask coworkers for some life-and-work-affirming high fives and shoulder hugs. Honestly, they’re cheaper than bonuses, plaques, and pens and make me feel twice as good.

 

psychometric or personality testingPersonality or Psychometric Testing – this is both our product (Fitzii software integrates psychometric testing into the early stages of the hiring process) and our practice (we use multiple, personality tests when considering a new hire). Like Enneagram and Five Love Languages – the operative principle is that identifying and understanding our own and others’ individual differences lays the foundation for healthy conflict and productive division of labour. Psychometric testing – for traits like assertiveness and work pace – is predictive of performance in a huge variety of tasks and situations. We’re on a mission not only to use these tests for our own benefit but to make them widely available and affordable for hiring organizations everywhere.

 

The Reinventing Organizations Wiki describes “The ideal of self-organization would be that each person can find their niche such that their way of thinking and being has the opportunity to express itself and that their capacities can be used to the full with the possibility of further development.“

At Fitzii, evaluating and harnessing what makes each of us different – and inviting all of those aspects to be present at work – has led to an experience of work that goes far beyond any of our previous work experiences or expectations.

We hope tools like these will help you discover the same.