THE GREAT HUDDLE
What is the Great Huddle? It’s a staff meeting! But it’s not your normal, run of the mill type of staff meeting. Instead, it’s a meaningful meeting where your team will (1) realign themselves to your vision, mission, and values. Then (2) they’ll each have an opportunity to speak so that everyone gets to know each other on a deeper level. Following that, (3) you or a member of your executive team will give a leadership briefing which includes the specific things you and your executive team are working on and the reasons behind it. You’ll share critical financial numbers with your team so that everyone is more in tune with the state of your company (for better or for worse). And you’ll give an update on where your company stands relative to your goals. Then, (4) someone will give a brief “lesson in leadership” or will provide refresher “standard operating procedure” training to your team. And finally, (5) you’ll cap off this meeting with an awards presentation to recognize superior achievement from within your ranks.
We’ll cover each of these sections in this white paper, but first, I have to give credit where credit is due! I didn’t make up the name, “The Great Huddle.” It came from an outstanding book I’ve read at least a few times over the past several years. The book is The Great Game of Business, written by Jack Stack. It’s a fantastic book and one of your action steps is to get that book and read it. I can tell you that I’ve personally used many of the ideas presented in The Great Game of Business, and while I can’t specifically quantify the exact amount of profit and company value I’ve gained as a result of reading the book and taking action, I know I’ve benefitted tremendously. You’ll learn about the powerful benefits of “open book management” and specifically how you can use your company financials to build a smart, well-informed, effective, committed team of people.
Now we’ll discuss each of the elements stated above that will be the content of your Great Huddles.
Start each meeting by reading your vision, mission, and values statements. After each statement is read, ask your team, “Are we living up to this?” Encourage everyone to answer that question candidly.
When you ask that question, sometimes the answer will be, “Yes, we’re living up to it.” But other times, there will be certain elements of your statements that are not being lived up to.
If it is the latter, then please ask everyone, “What are we going to change; our behaviour or our statements?” Without congruency of actions, vision/mission/values statements are worthless. If “what you say” about how your team will work together (in your statements) is different than how your team is “actually” working together, then something is wrong; either your statements are wrong or the behaviour is wrong. And, of course, if something is wrong, then it needs to be fixed! So give your team the opportunity to decide for themselves what needs to change; their behaviour or the statements.
For example, let’s suppose that part of your values statement reads, “Gossiping is destructive and shouldn’t be tolerated.” But at your Great Huddle it was exposed that there is gossiping going on. Before you address the issue of “gossiping,” first ask the question, “Do we want to change our values statement to allow for gossiping, or should we address the fact that we say we won’t gossip but aren’t currently living up to it?”
99.99% of the time, your team will want to change any behaviour that is not in line with your statements. It’s very rare that you’ll ever have someone suggest you lower a standard to match your current behaviour! Once everyone agrees that the values statement is correct and the behaviour needs to change, you can address specifically how you’re going to fix it. And the beauty is, you aren’t the police; the statements are! That means you can objectively facilitate the corrections. It’s not personal!
By starting your Great Huddle with reading your vision/mission/values, and then sincerely asking if the team is living up to it, you give the statements meaning. When people know that their behaviour is accountable to the statements, they’ll take the statements much more seriously and that’s the purpose.
So start each Great Huddle by (1) reading the vision/mission/values, and then (2) asking everyone if we’re living up to it (and encouraging their candid opinions), and then (3) let the team decide what needs to change; the statements or the behaviour, and finally, (4) go through the process of addressing the things that need to be addressed so that moving ahead, your team’s behaviour will match the content of your statements. NOTE: IF YOU DON’T CURRENTLY HAVE A COMPANY VISION/MISSION/VALUES DOCUMENT, PLEASE GO TO WHITE PAPER 10 AND GET ON IT!
You can call this section of the Great Huddle anything you’d like, but in my experience we called it “State Ofs.” You’ve heard of the State of the Union address that the US President gives periodically. Well, this is the “State of Themselves” address that each person will give! In short, I call them “State Ofs.”
This is where you go around the room and everyone gets to stand up and talk about anything they’d like to for however long you give them. To determine how long you’re going to give each person, start by considering the total amount of minutes you want to dedicate to this portion of your meeting and then divide that number by the amount of people in the room. For example, if you’re willing to invest 30 minutes total in doing State Ofs and you have 10 people in the room, then everyone gets three minutes to do their individual State Ofs. People should feel free to take less time than that, but they all need to be held to three minutes max.
During State Ofs, people can talk about things going on in their personal lives (such as buying a house or a new car, having a baby, going on vacation, etc.). They can also take this time to personally and “publicly” thank certain people on the team who have provided exceptional support to the person talking. The person can talk about projects being worked on, or recent accomplishments, or anything else. The purpose of State Ofs is to get people to know each other better and for everyone to have a chance to speak to everyone about anything they deem important either personally or professionally. This is also a great opportunity for people to know what other people on the team are working on.
For larger organizations, you should ask people to start their State Ofs by introducing themselves, telling everyone what they do at your company, and how long they’ve been employed at your company. This will help people learn each other’s names and will help people know who does what at your company.
When you do State Ofs, some people will be shy and won’t say much. Other people will use it as an opportunity to show everyone how funny they are. Others will be reluctant to share personal info and will stick to keeping it professional. Still others will only share personal info and won’t talk about business. My suggestion is to let them be themselves and give them their time. State Ofs can be a lot of fun and over time, your team will get to know each other much better than if you skip doing this.
You may choose to do this section of the Great Huddle yourself, or you may choose to have different members of your executive team take turns giving the leadership briefing. Either is okay, but remember, your job is to develop your leaders and when you give them the opportunity to run this section of your Great Huddles you will provide them valuable leadership experience. For that reason, I suggest you have the other leaders in your company facilitate this section of the Great Huddle.
During your leadership briefings, the following areas should be covered:
- A report on the specific things the executive team is working on and the reasons behind it.
- A briefing of the critical financial numbers so that everyone is more in tune with the state of your company (for better or for worse).
- An update on where your company stands relative to your goals.
When your team knows specifically what you and your executive team are working on, they won’t need to speculate. Instead, they’ll understand what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and will be on the look-out to help you achieve your objectives. In doing this, you’re also preventing an “us and them” mentality that often times divides “management and staff.” People are empowered when they know what’s going on and they’re also more connected. Remember; every person on your team is responsible for different pieces of the puzzle and by sharing strategy and tactics with them, you’re giving them the benefit of knowing what the puzzle is supposed to look like as they work with the different puzzle-pieces each day.
What are your critical numbers? Again, I strongly urge you to read The Great Game of Business, by Jack Stack. In short, your critical numbers are the numbers that most relate to your goals. For example, if one of your goals is centred on “annual net profits,” then a critical number to report each month is where your company stands year-to-date in net profits. If one of your goals includes paying off your line-of-credit, then a critical number to report each month is the total balance remaining on the line-of-credit.
This is where many business owners start to get uncomfortable. Sharing the financials seems dangerous to them. In my career I’ve been told numerous times that my “financials sharing” was “stupid.” And yet, the result from sharing the financials with my team has proven anything but stupid!
When people know the numbers, they know the score. When people know the score, they become more involved. It fuels their competitive spirits and makes things real instead of just being conceptual. When you talk about your specific numbers with your team, you should teach them specifically how to make those numbers better. You want your team members to be engaged and passionate about making your company stronger, don’t you? Well, how can they do that if they don’t know where you stand relative to where you all want to go? The answer is obvious; they can’t know! So what’s the downside of sharing your numbers?
Once you’ve given your team an update on the executive team initiatives and you’ve shared the financials, you have to be sure that you tie it all back to any company goals you’re all going after together. Please don’t leave it to your team to “connect the dots.” Instead, talk specifically about how the initiatives and the numbers relate to your goal(s).
Use this time to teach your team how to reach your goal. For example, if your goal is to earn a net profit of 10% this year, let people know specifically how the executive team initiatives are helping to achieve this. Suppose your executive team is working on updating your initial training program for new-hires. Be sure to explain to your team specifically how that initiative will help you earn higher net profits (prevents costly mistakes, enhances efficiency, reduces costly turnover, training is completed more quickly by being regimented, and all of the other ways in which that initiative helps to drive net profits).
You’ve already shared the critical numbers with your team (in this example, it would be year-to-date net profit margin). Now it’s time to brainstorm with your team on either (1) how to close the gap between where you are (YTD net profit margin) and where you want to be (10% net profit margin). Or, if you’re on-pace or ahead-of-pace for hitting your goal, use this time to talk about what you’re doing right that’s allowed you to post such fantastic numbers.
By the time this section of the Great Huddle comes to an end, you’ve (1) reviewed your vision/mission/values and your team has taken the time to hold themselves accountable to the statements. (2) Everyone on your team has stood up and given their own personal State Of. And (3) everyone has been briefed on what the executive team is focusing on, what initiatives are underway, and how the business is performing relative to your financials and your goals. Now it’s time for some team-member development.
Lesson in Leadership / SOP Training
How many companies actually take the time to teach their team-members how to be strong leaders? You’d think that since building leadership depth in an organization is so important that more businesses would do it, but the sad fact of the matter is; most businesses don’t.
Instead, business owners take for granted that by the time most people reach adulthood they already know about leadership traits and characteristics. These owners don’t recognize that “refresher training” is critical in helping people stay focused on doing the right things. Many business owners never had any formal leadership training themselves, so perhaps they wouldn’t even know where to begin. I’ll help you with that…
When preparing for giving a lesson in leadership, choose a leadership trait or characteristic that you appreciate and admire. Examples are: Leadership by example, integrity, attention to detail, servant leadership, leaders as teachers, discipline, commitment, technical competence, candour, being visionary, being strategic, being compassionate, remaining objective, being supportive or any other leadership characteristic you can think of (or find by searching about “leadership” on your favourite internet search-engine).
Once you choose the specific topic, plan a brief presentation about the characteristic or trait and be sure to tie it back to your specific business.
For example, if you choose to talk about “attention to detail,” first talk about it in general terms relative to why great leaders pay strict attention to detail. But then bring it back to your own company by giving real-life examples of how “attention to detail” differentiates your team from your competitors. Or talk specifically about how a lack of attention to detail costs your company profits, profit margin, customers, reputation, and sales.
Don’t worry about delivering an “earth-shattering” presentation that will have angels singing a chorus of “Hallelujahs!” You don’t have to discover some unknown truth about leadership that will instantly transform your people into enlightened warriors. You just have to remind people of the importance of those characteristics or traits and you have to bring it into the business by tying those ideas into your specific company operations. Sure, some people may learn a thing or two, but for most people this will be important “refresher training” and will refocus them on why it’s important to “do what you know.”
On alternating Great Huddles, you can choose to invest this time providing “standard operating procedure,” or “SOP” training instead of giving a lesson in leadership. If you’ve recently developed a new SOP or updated an old one, this is a great time to make sure everyone on your team is clear on it. Or maybe you’ve had errors or waste lately because a particular procedure isn’t being followed. This is a great time to correct that. If there have been changes to your employee handbook, this would be a great time to discuss it with your team.
The purpose of this portion of your Great Huddle is for your people to learn. It can be refresher training, new training, leadership training, systems training, HR training, or whatever other type of training you think will be valuable to your team members and/or your company.
Here’s a final tip for this portion of your Great Huddle: Don’t do it alone. Ask for volunteers to conduct this portion of the training. You can let them know what the topic will be or you can ask them to come up with it themselves. Be sure you give them time to prepare their presentation and mandate that they take it seriously. But then give them the opportunity to “own the stage” and for your team to hear perspectives other than your own. This will take pressure off of you from having to plan all the training and will simultaneously give your individual team members the opportunity to refine their own leadership abilities.
When was the last time you received formal recognition for your great results? How did it make you feel? Did you get a certificate, or a trophy, a plaque, or any other tangible symbol of accomplishment? Did you take it home and show it to loved ones? Did it inspire you with renewed enthusiasm and commitment? How did you feel about the person or organization that recognized your achievement? Did you feel a stronger bond with them? Were you appreciative? Did the award make you proud of yourself for your hard work and achievement? Sure it did!
We all know the wonderful power of awards, but how many business owners invest time each month in giving awards to recognize outstanding effort and/or results? If you’re in the minority of business owners that do present awards regularly, then great for you! You already know first-hand the many benefits that come with awards. If you’re in the majority of business owners that do not give awards regularly, then you have a fantastic opportunity in front of you! (Yes, you should put this on your Opportunities List, discussed in White Paper 2.)
A great way to end each Great Huddle is by having an awards presentation. There are many different ways to do this and it’s up to you to decide what way is best for your company.
Start by determining what the criteria for winning the monthly award will be. Are you going to base it on productivity, effort, alignment with your vision/mission/values, or some other criteria?
Who will choose the award winner each month? Will you (the owner) do it yourself, or will you have a vote within the executive team? Who will present the award at the Great Huddle? As you’re thinking this through, please consider that “giving” an award is often times just as rewarding as “getting” an award, so don’t hog all the glory for yourself! Let other people make the award presentation at least some of the time.
One thing that surprised me as a business owner was when we created an award where the winner of the award got to choose the winner of next month’s award and then he/she was able to present it to the winner. That became our most cherished award!
I thought that the award that was chosen by the executive team each month would be the major award and that the team-member to team-member award would be a nice, but secondary award. That didn’t turn out to be the case! Instead, the award that was chosen and presented from teammate to teammate became the most prestigious award! I strongly suggest you consider creating an award like that.
Then decide what the award will be. Will you give a plaque, trophy, certificate, gift card, cash, parking spot, or an extra day off as the award, or do you have something else in mind? One of my companies gave an old combat boot that was spray-painted with metallic gold paint as our monthly award. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it was quite an honour to receive it! As my company became more mature and was generating large profits, I changed the boot for a very nice plaque. I thought my team would appreciate that change, but they didn’t! They wanted the boot back (and yes, the boot came back). The point is, you don’t have to go overboard in choosing what to give as an award. You just have to do it.
Another fun thing to do when creating the award is to name the award after one of your very top leaders who has had a long track record of greatness within your company.
Once you determine who will choose the winner, what criteria will be used, what the award will be, and who will present the award, you’re ready to go! But please make sure your awards are most meaningful and beneficial by making sure that as the awards are presented, you provide very specific reasons why the person is being awarded.
When you make it specific, people get to learn from other people’s successes. Furthermore, the award is nice to receive, but the specific acknowledgment of the great contributions the person made is equally as meaningful to the recipient. Don’t slack in this. Don’t just announce who won the award. Take your time, be precise, and use this as a “teachable moment” for your other team members. By all means, tie your presentation back to your vision/mission/values.
When the person accepts the award, please give that individual the opportunity to give a short “acceptance speech.” When you do this, you give the award-winner the opportunity to thank other people on the team and the opportunity to share their feelings and reinforce the values of your company.
And there you have it: The Great Huddle!
The Great Huddle is your fantastic staff meeting full of learning, bonding, alignment, and recognition. Here are a few more tips, and then we’ll end: First, please schedule your Great Huddle to be on the same day and same time each month. For example, “From 6pm to 7:30pm on the first Wednesday of each month.” That way, people can easily schedule their lives around your Great Huddles.
The next tip is to be sure to schedule this meeting outside of your normal business hours. The last thing you want is for the phone to be ringing, deadlines to be pressing, and people anxious to get out of the meeting to handle their day-to-day operations. By having it after normal working hours, people can relax and be more into the meeting.
Since you’re going to have this meeting after normal business hours, you’ll be cutting into dinner time for many people. So you’ll have to feed them! Often times, these meetings will force you to pay overtime wages for non-exempt employees. That’s okay! Do it. If you run your Great Huddles as suggested and you put thought and planning into making each meeting meaningful, the return on investment of your time, money, and effort far outweigh the cost of food, awards, and overtime pay.
It’s not easy, but it is fun. It’s not cheap, but it is meaningful. Go ahead and give it a try. And please feel free to make any adjustments you think are beneficial along the way.
I wish you all my best!
Review / Action Steps
Please get the book, The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack and read it!
Either adopt or modify the following recurring agenda for your Great Huddles:
GREAT HUDDLE AGENDA-
VISION/MISSION/VISION – Read it and then hold your team’s behaviour accountable to i
STATE OFs – Everyone has a specified amount of time to talk about themselves, their work, thank other people, and/or let everyone know what they’re currently working on.
LEADERSHIP BRIEFING – Includes: A report on the specific things you and your executive team are working on and the reasons behind it. Sharing the critical financial numbers with your team so that everyone is more in tune with the state of your company (for better or for worse). Update on where your company stands relative to your goals
LESSON IN LEADERSHIP/ SOP TRAINING – You or a member of your team will either give a lesson in a particular leadership trait or characteristic –or- someone on your team will provide standard operating procedure training.
AWARDS – Where achievement is recognized.
Create your Great Huddle schedule and distribute to your team.
Execute your own Great Huddles!
When your company staff meetings are informative, interesting, engaging, enjoyable, and rewarding, your team members will look forward to them. They’ll be productive meetings and the result can be a substantial return on your investment of time, energy, and effort.Your “Great Huddles” will provide a forum for reinforcing your vision, mission, and values statements. They will provide everyone the opportunity to get to know each other on an even deeper level both professionally and personally. Speculation and rumours will be replaced with informed team members who feel included in the company’s strategic initiatives. Your team members will learn or be reminded as to how to become stronger leaders. Your company communications regarding systems and procedures will be enhanced. Finally, people will be formally and “publicly” recognized for their great work.
Once you experience the benefits of the Great Huddle, you’ll never understand why most businesses either don’t have staff meetings at all or have the typical brain-deadening staff meetings which are dreaded and resented by everyone.
The Great Huddle is a powerful team-building and company-building event and it’s a fantastic way to build an exceptionally strong company culture.
It’s not easy and it does require time and money. But it is fun and it does work.
I wish you all my best!
©Copyright 2013 by Jon Denney