Stakeholder Business 

A Powerful Practice for Stellar (and Genuine) Employee Engagement

Apr 11, 2023
A group of happy team members at a work meeting.

By Meghan French Dunbar

For those of you whom I haven’t met yet, my name is Meghan French Dunbar. Prior to joining forces with Kent and Nathan to launch Stakeholder Business, I was the co-founder and CEO of Conscious Company Media. We were the force behind Conscious Company Magazine (pictured below), the Conscious Company Leaders Forum, the World-Changing Women’s Summit, and the World-Changing Women’s podcast, with a full-time team of seven.

We were small but extraordinarily mighty. But we weren’t mighty on account of overworking our team — our ability to punch above our weight came down to the fact that we were all highly engaged with what we were doing. As CEO, I felt it was critical for me to cultivate that engagement to the best of my abilities. And fortunately, part of my job was interviewing tons of extraordinary stakeholder business leaders, so I had a true sense of what actually worked (hint: it had nothing to do with huge bonuses, office parties, and foosball tables). True engagement comes from things like helping team members feel a sense of purpose, showing them we walked our talk, demonstrating care for everyone as their leader, acknowledging and celebrating everyone's accomplishments, and building trust through genuine connection. 

One of the most successful engagement practices involved our team meeting each Monday and Friday to check in on our values, both personal and as a company, and track how each person felt and performed that week. These weekly values check-ins were one of the practices we used to cultivate genuine and consistent connection to our team and our purpose as an organization. Here's how we did it — and how it improved multiple aspects of our work.

Creating a Weekly Values Check-in 

Before we dive in: One of the things our silly human brains love to do when someone is suggesting a change in how we do things is look for reasons why it won’t work. The structure of the following practice might not work for your organization for a number of reasons; try not to get hung up on the structure of this. If it clearly won’t work for any reason, get creative about what could (I literally made up this practice to fit my company — you can do the same). The main element, though, is a consistent, genuine check-in about company and personal values. 

Step 1: Ensure your company’s values are clear and accessible. 

Note: if your company values feel outdated, irrelevant, or uninspiring, take the time to update them, preferably with your entire team’s input BEFORE you move on to the next steps. 

Step 2: Schedule two 60-minute all-team meetings.

Preferably, these would be at the beginning and end of the week. 

Note: If your company is too large for a weekly all-team meeting, you can truncate it to weekly meetings with your direct reports. Once your direct reports understand the structure of the meetings, it’s recommended that they set up the same practice with their direct reports and so on, so that the engagement practice reaches as many people as possible. 

Step 3: Identify your own personal values.

Prior to the first meeting, identify your own personal values (no more than five) and write them down. 

Step 4: Ask your team members to identity their own personal values.

Prior to the first meeting, ask your team members to identify their top 3-5 personal values, with the caveat that these aren’t set in stone and can be changed at any time. Prompts that can help you or your team identify personal values include: 

  • What do you hold sacred? 
  • How do you aspire to show up when you’re at your best?
  • What do you feel is most important or meaningful about life?  
  • How do you want to be remembered? 

Step 5: Establish the cadence of each meeting.

In your first meeting, establish how these new meetings will work, which goes as follows: 

  • Check-ins: Every meeting begins with a quick yet genuine check-in with every person. The question we used was simply, “How are you actually doing today?” 
  • Weekly priorities: In the first meeting of each week (Meeting 1), each person then identifies the top three things they are focused on or need to complete during the week, as well as identifying if there is anything currently preventing them from doing so (i.e., I need an answer about x, I am waiting on creative, I don’t have this element of research, etc.). 
  • Weekly accomplishments: In the second meeting of each week, each person shares what they accomplished or completed during the week. If they did not complete or focus on the areas they identified from the beginning of the week, give them space to discuss what got in their way. 
    • Note: Have someone from your team (I usually took this job on) be the scribe for these meetings and write down priorities and obstacles for all team members. 
  • Company values high/low: Leave at least 10 minutes at the end of the meeting. Put your team values up on a shared screen or somewhere visible to the group and ask the team how they felt they either exemplified or didn’t exemplify a team value during the previous week. For example, “I know one of our team values is curiosity. Last week, I completely shut down when someone proposed a new idea because I felt overwhelmed. It wasn’t my best moment and I want to return to a place of curiosity in the future.”
    • Make this optional. 
    • You will need to go first, and it’s preferable that you speak about a time that you fell short of one of the values (to set the stage for others that it is okay to do so). 
    • There will be a lot of awkward silence. Before assuming that no one wants to speak, let the silence go on for longer than feels comfortable. Oftentimes someone will jump in.
    • It’s okay if some weeks a few people share and other weeks everyone shares. The important part is that it is consistently prioritized and that you participate.
    • Be open and as vulnerable as possible, with a balance of examples of high and low.    

Reap the Rewards

As you’re getting started, it will likely feel awkward, hard, weird, forced, and/or silly. But the more you practice this, the more comfortable and valuable it will become. As CEO, my experience with this specific practice was invaluable for a number of reasons: 

  1. A Sense Of Meaning: Having a team-wide practice that connected us to our values and purpose helped the team feel as though we genuinely walked to talk as an organization and that they had a sense of meaning at work. 
  2. Genuine Care: This practice helped me keep a pulse on how my team was doing.Through the check-ins at the beginning of each meeting and the values exercise, I was able to gauge if someone on my team was struggling. Team members rarely shared exactly what was going on, but what they did share spoke volumes for those paying attention. If I sensed something was off, I would gently personally check-in after the meeting to see if the person was okay. My team felt genuinely cared for by their leader as a result. 
  3. Clarity On Direction: Having each team member identify what they were prioritizing for the week helped me understand the general landscape of the week’s activities and also helped me identify if someone was WAY off with what they thought they should be doing compared with the larger team goals. In doing this practice regularly, our team was clear on what they should be doing, what others were doing, and how it fit into the larger picture of our purpose as an organization. 
  4. Acknowledgment and Help: Circling back at the end of each week to see what had been accomplished and if people were able to complete the tasks that they identified showed us how much we were able to complete as a team, gave us a minute to acknowledge each other’s work, and also helped me identify potential bottlenecks or issues that were standing in the way of critical work being completed. Not only did team members feel valued through public acknowledgement, but identifying and removing barriers that prevented them from doing work made them feel valued in a different way.
  5. Trust and Connection: Having a consistent check-in on your own personal values can be…sobering. For many of us in leadership roles, our work becomes our identity and intimately tied to our sense of worth. Oftentimes this dynamic pulls us away from the things we truly value like meaningful connections with family and friends, experiencing joy, learning new things, traveling without a business goal, etc. Being able to express what was important to me to my team and being open about areas where I was struggling to prioritize my values built immense trust with my team and also kept pulling me back to what was truly important for me. Hearing about everyone else's values helped us understand each other better and connect in a much more meaningful way. 

Whether this practice resonates with you or not, I hope it inspires you to think of new and creative ways of connecting with your team, engaging their hearts and minds, and opening yourself up to how you can enhance your leadership in unexpected ways.


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