Want to Make Change Stick? Rethink Work Meetings

Change. For better or worse, it’s a constant in today’s workplace. And in an uncertain future, it will remain a strategic priority for organizational success. But encouraging people to change is also one of the biggest challenges leaders face.

How can we leverage internal communications to make change initiatives work? Could we find the answer in something as simple as everyday meetings? Join me as I explore this question in depth on the latest #WorkTrends podcast episode.


Meet Our Guest:  Lindsey Caplan

Today, I’m excited to speak with Lindsey Caplan, organizational psychologist, communication strategist and founder of The Gathering Effect. By blending her experience in education, entertainment and business, Lindsey offers practical tools to help drive lasting workplace change. Here are highlights from our conversation:

Keyword: Gathering

Welcome, Lindsey! I’m looking forward to talking with you about how organizations can drive more lasting change today. Let’s start with the concept of “gathering.” Tell us, what does this term mean to you?

I define gathering as bringing people together to match a message with a moment for a specific effect. Those of us in HR are very familiar with gatherings. They’re happening all the time, whether they’re virtual or in-person or hybrid.

They come in many forms: town halls, all-hands meetings, off-sites, retreats, conferences, classes, and new hire orientations. These are all tools we can use to communicate about change and help employees do things differently.

Connecting People with Change

Why do gatherings play such a central role in the change process?

Just like a hammer, we can use gatherings for different purposes. There are four different effects that gatherings can produce, depending on the choices we make. The key is to start with the effect you want, rather than the content you want to share.

Know Your Objective

So you’re saying we should begin at the end? Interesting…

That approach may feel a little different, but it really is a significant strategic difference that determines how gatherings can make change stick. So I teach people to diagnose and define the effect they want to achieve, and then adjust their gatherings to align with the effect they want.

What Matters When We Gather

What should we consider as we plan gatherings designed to drive lasting change?

We need to look at multiple factors. Do we know the needs of people that will attend? Do we know what they care about? What’s at stake for them? Often, as leaders, we probably know. But maybe we don’t have a sense of what employees really care about.

How Culture Fits In

You say gatherings are “culture on display.” I think that’s so powerful, Lindsey. But can you explain what you mean by that?

Especially in a remote or hybrid environment, logging into a company-wide meeting, town hall or training class is rare. Right? These are high stakes moments. Often they’re important points in an employee’s journey when everyone is  together. People are listening. They’re paying attention to what leaders say and how they’re saying it. So these are excellent moments to reinforce and build your culture.

What’s Ahead

As we look ahead to the post-pandemic era, what do you see next for work gatherings, communication, and change?

I hope the pandemic workplace has given us awareness about the opportunity to do better. And I think it has revealed what we’re really gathering for—which is not information, it’s connection.

Brilliant! Yes, it’s about becoming more human, collectively. It’s about simplifying. And it’s about being mindful of what’s at stake when we make choices about when, where, how, and why we show up and communicate with others.


I love Lindsey’s perspective and her practical how-to advice, don’t you? I hope you’ll find this #WorkTrends episode useful as you plan change-related communications in your organization. It’s always here as a resource if you want to replay it again in the future.

In addition, you can learn more about how to leverage gatherings to drive lasting change by visiting Lindsey’s website,

For more advice from other world-of-work experts, don’t forget to subscribe to the #WorkTrends Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Also, to continue this conversation anytime on social media, follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

The First Steps to Transforming Work Culture

Changing workplace culture is never a revolution—at least, not if you want change that lasts. So if you’re focused on transforming your work culture as we move into the coming year, it’s important to know that it’s a process, not an overnight transformation. That’s an idea that makes many leaders uncomfortable; we like to think of ourselves as disruptive and courageous, able to flip a switch and inspire change. The reality is, particularly in a large organization, sudden changes often do more damage than good. It’s exceedingly difficult, and often a mistake, to aim for wholesale culture shifts overnight.

The benefits of a positive workplace culture are significant: greater productivity, lower turnover, good communication, and employees who are satisfied and happy. In a climate where many organizations aim to dominate their particular market and good talent can be scarce, leading a team that’s dedicated and energized is a powerful lure. If transforming your work culture is on your radar, here’s a look at first steps you can take to get started.

Turn to Customers and Front-Line Workers First

In larger companies, goals are generally set by the C-suite; someone with industry experience and access to analyst trends often sees an opportunity and the executives decide it’s time to grab it.

That top-down approach is sometimes successful, but it’s often more of a gamble than it needs to be. At worst, it creates blinders that can lead to failures: See Blockbuster, Nokia, and Borders.

The high-level perspective is important, but often misses early indications of problems, solutions, and trends. Instead, it’s the people at the front of the organization—your customers and the people who connect with them daily—who are best positioned to give the kind of feedback the business needs to stay healthy. Listening to your customers, front-line sales team and customer service representatives can provide valuable information that can lead to new ideas and potential revenue opportunities, help identify mistaken assumptions in your business model, or even change your understanding of market segments.

Make sure you get customer and front-line input before setting your goals, and then keep that group involved as you make and implement plans; and don’t forget to keep asking for their feedback along the way. All of this will help lower the risk of making bad decisions and go a long way toward not only keeping customers happy, but your team feeling like an integral part of the business building process.

Identify People Who Get Things Done

Effective leaders find people who make things happen; they recognize that there are change agents in every organization. While it’s often middle managers who lead cultural shifts, it isn’t always the people with “manager” in their titles.

Change agents prioritize curiosity, learning, and relationships. They empower others, embody the company’s values, and can interpret change at a human level. These are the people with the power to truly disrupt a company from the inside. Fgure out who they are and find out what you can do to help them.

Develop a Continuous Feedback Loop

One of the strongest ways to transform work culture is to simply pay attention. Instead of waiting for quarterly reports or annual reviews, create a continuous feedback loop that allows for constant testing, tuning, and re-tuning organizational vibe.

Instead of waiting for people to come to you with criticisms or kudos, go to them. Prove you are listening and find ways to create small victories that will provide information you need for big wins.

This approach also has the advantage of giving you early warning signs when work culture takes a downturn. Are people working long hours but productivity is suffering? Find out what’s at the root of the problem. This may mean finding small, smart practices to encourage creativity, revisit milestones, or talk to a manager about resetting expectations. Don’t let middle managers—and the people below them—feel that the status quo is unchangeable. Show them that they count, and that their voices and opinions matter. Take input seriously, then use it.

Making incremental change starts a wave of work culture transformation across an organization. It isn’t an abrupt flip, but a signal that positive changes are in the works. Leaders must monitor these steps and make sure the organization keeps moving forward. By doing so, you’ll build momentum that will eventually transform how your organization exists.

What do you think? Have you experienced leading or working in an organization focused on transforming work culture? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, and any suggestions you have based on your experiences that I might have missed.

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