If Your Company's Culture Needs A Shot In The Arm, Do The Huddle

Steal this idea: At method, we have a special--and easy to replicate--way of keeping corporate culture humming even as the company grows.

In 2005, a mutual friend introduced me to the lads at innocent. For those unfamiliar with innocent, think of them as the British Odwalla. But cooler. We often joke that innocent is our sister company because of our similar business philosophy, approach to culture, and founders of the same age and background. We make soap. They make juice. But everything else feels the same. 

At the time, method was in the midst of a major growth spurt. Innocent was experiencing the same, but were ahead of us on headcount. So I asked cofounder Richard Reed for one piece of advice to maintain the culture as the company grew. He quickly and simply answered, “Start a huddle.” Their weekly tradition of having an all-company Monday morning meeting was a way to keep everyone connected to the culture and business. It sounded like exactly what we needed.

That weekend I flew back to San Francisco excited to announce that we would start our own huddle--that Monday. The first one was a bit awkward, feeling more like a forced staff meeting. It slowly transitioned into something more akin to a weekly sales status. That wasn’t much better. We tried to lighten it up and it was too much forced family fun. But being persistent entrepreneurs, we stuck with it until we found our groove. Finally, the huddle turned into something we all looked forward to and couldn’t imagine starting our week without. 

Today, the huddle is our way of aligning our business principles with our objectives and keeping the company on track. Each one is dedicated to discussing and preserving everything that makes us who we are as a company, like new sales wins, financial challenges, birthdays, babies, and other personal announcements. It provides a weekly opportunity for spontaneity--like the time one of our IT guys dressed in drag to host the huddle as Marilyn Monroe--and introductions to visitors or new employees within their first moments at method. But above all, it’s a caffeinated way to kickoff the week with laughs, smiles, and the occasional celebration.  

How much do we love our weekly huddle? So much so that we specifically designed our lobby for it, complete with funky couches and a killer AV system. One of the early lessons was the importance of having a designated huddle location. To be clear, a weekly staff meeting in the company boardroom is not a huddle, it’s a staff meeting. Hold your huddle somewhere informal--the lobby, the kitchen, that back hallway with the forgotten Xerox machine and drafty skylight. Anywhere but a conference room.

Another way we distinguish the huddle from a typical meeting is by having a different person lead it each week. Though our main agenda is always the same--examining our priorities through the lens of our seven business principles, or as we call them, obsessions--changing up the moderator helps us see things from a fresh perspective. Take our first obsession, culture, for example. Handled with a bit of personality, such as a Big Lebowski theme--complete with cereal bowls, shabby bathrobes, and gratuitous use of the word “dude”--even simple announcements about birthdays and weekly front-desk assignments take on a new dimension. 

Next Monday, try a huddle. If your company is too big, start a huddle with your department. It might feel odd at first, but I promise if you stick with it, a natural rhythm will emerge. People will get comfortable participating in the culture, sharing information and openly acknowledging colleagues for great work. Long-term, it will help your company find an authentic way of reinforcing your shared values and align everyone toward company goals. I dare even say, it may make you feel more like a family.

How to run a great huddle:

  • Have a different huddle leader each week. It preserves the community spirit, keeps it fresh, and avoids the need to cancel if someone is out of the office. 
  • Create a regular schedule so there’s an expected cadence to the huddle, but keep the agenda loose and leave room for things like “shout-outs of awesomeness” to recognize exceptional work.   
  • Occasionally disrupt the huddle with an outside speaker or major agenda point. Having a standing weekly meeting creates the perfect forum to discuss major topics. We haven’t had to call a separate all-company meeting in three years. 
  • Send out notes afterward to keep everyone in the loop, inform those who missed the huddle that day and reinforce its importance.
  • Don’t hold it in a conference room. Anywhere but a conference room!
  • Keep it fun! Ensure it delivers a boost of energy to start the week. And if it starts getting stale, don’t be afraid to adjust the format until it works for your company.

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3 Comments

  • Christina Tamer

    I second Rosana, would love tips for implementing this for teams in different locations. 

  • Rosana Francescato

    I like this idea! Any thoughts on how to do this successfully when group members are in different locations?

  • Doug Collins

    Thought provoking article.

    Even more intriguing, however, when one replaces the "h" in huddle with a "c."