A Magical Meeting Story from Erica Wood, a performance consultant, learning and development leader, and leadership coach from New York, New York.
Welcome to Magical Meetings Stories, a series where I chat with professional facilitators, meeting practitioners, leaders, and CEOs across industries about their meeting culture. We dive deep into a specific magical meeting they’ve run, including their approach to facilitation design, and their tips and tricks for running meetings where people thrive.
Today’s story is with Erica Wood, a leadership and performance consultant from New York, New York. I spoke with Erica about the Recalibration Session, the reason behind it, and what risks she encountered.
Back to Basics
Erica designed the Recalibration Session to help companies identify and align with their mission statement, vision statement, and core values. As I talked to Erica about her meeting, she recalled one client with whom the Recalibration Session was a resounding success.
In this Recalibration Session, Erica set out to help her clients redefine their main objectives and reinvigorate their company culture. The company hit a plateau and realized they were far from the initial ideas and values they used to found the company. What’s more, the company faced challenges like poor morale, behavioral issues, and a lack of accountability in the workplace, making recalibration a pressing need for continued growth.
With a focus on driving engagement, redefining the company’s identity, and getting back to basics, Erica launched a series of Recalibration Sessions with her client and soon experienced incredible results.
Let’s take a closer look at Erica’s process to learn what made this meeting magical.
In a Recalibration Session, the facilitator encourages their client to take an honest look at their company’s pitfalls and identify where they can improve.
- The leadership team and steering committee must rewrite and agree on a new vision statement
In this meeting, the facilitator will select the following:
- Three-hour sessions
- One assistant
- The C-Suite
- Identify the mission statement, vision statement, and core values
- Unify the employee base
- Adopt a people-focused approach to leadership
In this particular meeting, Erica invited members of the C-Suite, steering committee, and all employees to two different iterations of the same meeting.
Plan the Workshop
- Answer questions about core values
- Rate the importance of core values
- C-Suite Recalibration Session
- Company Recalibration Session
- Breakout Session
- Reconvening & Recalibrating
C-Suite Recalibration Session
Before the company-wide Recalibration Session begins, the facilitator will host a needs analysis/exploratory session with the leadership team.
In Erica’s meeting, the initial Recalibration Session included the executive team, the C-Suite, and the steering committee. Throughout the session, Erica encouraged total engagement and involvement by asking probing questions about the company’s performance and culture.
Using the newly identified mission statement, vision statement, and core values, Erica began the C-Suite session with the following aims:
- Identify the behavioral indicators of the core values
- Determine how the company aligns with those statements
Erica cites Dr. Amy Edmondson’s research on the importance of psychological safety and Google’s Project Aristotle in her approach to her C-Suite meetings. Without the leadership team and the executive team fully on board, this style of meeting puts employees at risk for retribution. Erica was able to mitigate this risk by encouraging radical honesty in all her Recalibration Sessions– with both the members of the C-Suite and all 135 employees.
Company Recalibration Session
After the C-Suite Realibration Session, the facilitator holds the same meeting with the rest of the company. The purpose of these subsequent sessions is to gather employees’ opinions and determine what changes need to be made in the company.
Erica facilitated several three-hour workshops to accommodate her client’s large employee base. The C-Suite kicked the meeting off by disclosing the purpose of the session and expressing current challenges in the company. During this phase, honesty and participation from the executive team were key in encouraging engagement and vulnerability from employees.
To gain better insight into the company culture, Erica split the session into breakout groups of four-five people.
During this phase, the facilitator encourages honest discourse by prioritizing employees’ opinions, experiences, and suggestions.
In Erica’s sessions, one person per group acted as the transcriber to take detailed notes throughout the session and another as the spokesperson for the group. Then, Erica introduced the new mission statement, vision statement, and core values, asking all groups to answer the following questions about the company:
- What’s working already?
- Where do we see these values are vital?
- Where do we honor/dishonor these values?
- What concerns do you have about this particular value?
- What are the barriers to implementation and acceptance?
Groups then score the core values on a scale of 1 – 10 to better gauge each value’s importance.
With a break in the sessions, the facilitator can take time to gather and analyze the information gathered in the previous phases.
The break allowed Erica enough time to gather results for the final phase. While tallying each person’s score was tedious, score participants’ results with the help of a colleague.
Reconvening & Recalibrating
The goal of the final phase of the Recalibration Session is to bring all problems to the forefront to discuss them openly. Ultimately, the aim is to identify how to recalibrate going forward.
During this phase, Erica set the stage for radical truth-telling as each group’s spokesperson shared what values they deemed important. Employees were allowed to challenge the status quo and advocate for themselves by identifying scenarios in which the corporate culture failed to reflect the company’s core values.
In this phase, tapping into participants’ vulnerability was key to generating engagement and encouraging honesty:
“There were maybe some pieces that they included on those sheets…that they handed to me at the end of the session, that I was able to capture and talk to the executive team about privately…
As a result, the leadership team began making some tough calls, both in beginning to hold people accountable, have tough conversations, or write people up for people who were demonstrating that they weren’t a fit for the culture that they were attempting to cultivate.”
A meeting like Erica’s Recalibration Session is designed to break barriers and shift culture, regardless of one’s role or status in a company. In such a meeting, the bolder one is, the better the results. As such, Erica muses that if she dares to be bolder in her future meetings, she’ll encourage members of the C-Suite to publicly share an area where they aren’t currently demonstrating their company values or vision. While this level of vulnerability is uncommon in an executive team, it’s exactly why this type of meeting works.
One of the most resounding wins from Erica’s Recalibration Session came by way of the CFO. While the client’s CFO kept to himself to give his employees more autonomy, it made him appear unapproachable to the rest of the staff. Noting the results of the Recalibration Session, the CFO made more of an effort to engage with his staff, resulting in newly forged relationships and increased receptivity from his team.
I asked Erica about the most notable deliverables from her Recalibration Session and she shared that her client’s profits increased by 10% within a year. In addition to this remarkable growth, Erica discussed the power of putting people first and aligning one’s actions to their values:
“One of the most enriching parts was seeing people come together and brainstorm and talk through… where are we currently damaging these values?”
“By the end of each of the sessions, they each came up with promises, declarations, of things they were going to stop doing. Things that were already working that they don’t want to lose, that they want to continue doing, and things that they weren’t doing that they wanted to propose and start doing…So some really great, very actionable items came from the session.”
Do you have your own Magical Meeting Story to tell?
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