Killing the “Narrative Void” (Free template!)

A tool to get everyone on the same mission.
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Hey Beautiful Business people!

There’s nothing worse than a company that’s lost focus. But you can turn it around with one super effective meeting template!

  • Telling your story with the Quarterly Open Book Meeting 

I’ll walk you through, then you can download my template at the end. It’s a game changer.

(P.S. Want to reach 37,000+ leaders, entrepreneurs, and movers and shakers like yourself? Reach out to sponsor an issue of this newsletter!)

When people in an organization don’t see the bigger picture of what they’re working towards, it can be a company killer. 

Marketing expert Douglas Miller calls this the “Narrative Void”.

When a team isn’t bought in to the mission — or worse, doesn’t even know what it is — they lose energy. It wastes time. It splits your team into factions that spend more time competing than getting the job done.

Or worse, they give up, check out, and quit. 

So what can you do about it?

Overcoming the Narrative Void

I know a big business where no employees quit for a whole year. 

And the CEO spends tons of time communicating their story.

When people feel they’re part of a mission, they connect with their work in a completely different way.

So here’s a great tool I’ve used to bring a team together:

The Open Book Meeting.

I’ll walk you through it, link the template at the end, and you can put your own together in no time.

What it is

This meeting goes by different names — some people might call it an All Hands, or a Town Hall. 

I like Open Book because it reflects the nature of the meeting: the CEO updating the entire company on the good and the bad, with total transparency.

The result is better alignment, engagement, and culture.

You should have an Open Book four times a year, just after the quarter closes.

The whole company should be invited, whether that’s in-person, over Zoom, or a hybrid.

How to run it

Here’s a deck for my imaginary restaurant chain “Grilldley’s” - you can copy the deck here.

First, start with an agenda so everyone knows what to expect.

Then move to item 1: wins from the quarter.

This starts the meeting positively. We often spend too much time on what’s broken — and not enough time on what’s good!

Next, we dig into the business.

The CEO should go over the long-term, short-term, and immediate goals of the business. Be honest about whether things are on track or not. 

(I use a system called EOS for all my businesses — you make a one-page business plan that covers everything from the quarter to the next decade.) 

This reminds everyone of the big picture objectives: where are we going? And how are we doing?

Now it’s time to get really transparent: financials.

At this point, the CFO presents the numbers. Given that this information is reaching your team for the first time (mostly), there’s been a lot of slide reading by leadership. 

That’s OK.

As long as you’re upfront and to the point, people will appreciate the context you’re giving them about their livelihoods.

But now it’s time for something a little less passive. 

In smaller orgs, we like to do a fun group activity. For Grilldley’s, we might do a trivia contest about our menu items. (We’ve used Kahoot to build games.)

This helps keep people from falling asleep.

After a break, highlight something new in the company

It could be a new marketing team, recognizing your summer interns, a new acquisition, a new product — shine a spotlight on something that’s changed.

Then, we present an award to a high-performing teammate.

Personally, I’m not wired to value public awards. So early in my career, I didn’t do them enough.

I’ve learned that they’re essential to building an enthusiastic, engaged team. 

At this point comes the most important part: the CEO Q&A.

For young or inexperienced CEOs, this can be difficult. Some tips to make this run smoothly:

  • Have a moderator organize questions
  • Invite tough questions & feedback
  • Be OK with silence while people are submitting their questions
  • If you’re on video, the CEO must stay high-energy to keep the meeting momentum up
  • Be engaging but real
  • Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t have an answer for that right now. Let me get back to you.”

Once you hit your time limit, or run through all the questions, all that’s left is the wrap-up.

Three things to always do:

1. Remind people of upcoming events

2. Ask for feedback on the meeting

3. End on time!

If your meetings never evolve and always run long, you’re setting people up to tune them out. 

Respect your staff and they’ll respect you.

That’s the whole meeting!

It seems simple, but this time is super high leverage. A few hours invested by leaders turns into a 1-to-many communication vehicle more effective than any email or async update.

Culturally, your teammates learn the leaders are real people. 

And when leaders are seen putting in the effort to drive alignment, everyone is more on board.

Powerful stuff.

Give it a try and let me know how it works for you! Click the button below to get a copy of the slide deck, or build your own from scratch!

Get the slide deck:

(By the way: if you want to read more about the Narrative Void, pick up one of my favorite marketing books of all time — StoryBrand by Douglas Miller!)

Have a great week!