Once the organization I managed reached a certain size, how can we continue building culture so that we remain strong?
We did it by focusing on culture and getting ahead of problems through having several types of regular meetings. Over the years we have experimented with the frequency and types of meetings to see what worked best. In my view, our regular meeting schedule became the foundation for heading off issues before they got more difficult. And they provide the foundation for the culture-building that shaped who we became.
Here is the general pattern we eventually came to. It is organized by the week of the month and by which subgroups (see Categories of Staff below) attend. On a monthly basis the pattern looks like this:
Monday, 10 am to noon—Associate Staff meeting
Thursday, 9 to 11:30 am—Leadership meeting followed by lunch for leadership team
Wednesday or Thursday, two-hour Site meeting—each office location meets as a group
Thursday 8:45 to 10 am—Leadership meeting
Thursday 9 to 11 am—All Staff meeting—we meet in a church to accommodate our large group
Same as Week 2
5th Thursday of a month (happens 3 or 4 times a year)
9 am to 3 pm—Leadership Planning Day
Support Staff meet monthly, usually on a Monday morning. They do lots of training and sharing there.
We also have an annual retreat in September at some retreat center in our area. We truly make it a retreat. The goal is to not work together but to enjoy a different pace for a day.
In November we as a group do a service project with a not-for-profit where we spend a few hours packing food for children and/or adults facing food insecurity.
For many years we had an annual Christmas party, usually at someone’s home on a Saturday evening. and have now migrated to having it in our largest office at our All Staff Meeting in December.
Categories of Staff
Associate Staff—These are clinicians who have joined us within the last year or so. They have a monthly two-hour meeting where we go over many topics—a curriculum on how to be successful in our setting.
Leadership—We have a Director who manages each of our locations, a Director of our Support Staff, and the owner (who was me for many years). This group meets to make the plans and decisions for the development of the organization, including the interviewing and hiring of staff.
Staff at each site—Each of our locations has clinical and support staff. The local site meetings are partly clinical supervision, partly administrative conversations, and partly personal support and team building. Interestingly the patterns of these meetings vary from site to site and have reshaped themselves as each site grew, changing in size and therefore structure. They now vary in size from six clinicians at one site to twenty-two at another.
Support Staff—We have support staff who take care of the administrative work needed to support our clients, clinical staff, and leaders. Currently we have nine support staff. Some move from office to office to maintain a broader knowledge of multiple sites and to develop consistency across office locations.
All Staff—This is an overlapping group. Always the clinical staff attend. Sometimes support staff do as well, depending on the topic. We will only have the clinical staff attend when the focus is on clinical training. When we are going over administrative changes, then we have everyone attend.
Why so many meetings?
Our meeting schedule allows us to have a balance of deliberation and responsiveness as things come along requiring change. And the variety of overlapping configurations allows people to get to know each other and the leadership to respond pretty deeply and quickly to most things that come along.
Having these opportunities to interact creates the space for us to build a culture together that is less crisis oriented and more relationally based. We see all meetings as a major opportunity for building a sense of community even as we have gotten larger and more spread out geographically.
Also see “How to become a community of clinicians”