How a team huddle can completely transform your workplace

In my younger and thinner years, I worked as an outdoor pursuit instructor. The pay was abysmal, but it was genuinely one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. We had a work hard/play hard culture, and the guys and girls I worked with were some of the best people I have ever worked with. But what really made the difference was the sense of community & teamwork. You always felt like you had someone there to have your back.

Running late? No problem; someone would jump in to help you get back on track. Struggling to carry all of the kit for your next session? Without even asking, someone would grab half of it off you and help you carry it to wherever you were going.

I remember one cold February day, it was 4pm and I was due to finish work soon. But I was hanging off my climbing harness 90 foot up a high ropes access pole trying to fix a broken pulley. The rain was lashing down and the pulley was jammed with mud & silt meaning that my hands were cold, wet and being ripped to shreds. I still had to pack up the equipment from the previous session meaning I wasn’t likely to finish for at least another hour.

Exhausted, I sat back into my harness and looked down to the ground and saw 3 of my colleagues had turned up and without saying a word, were packing up my session kit for me and taking it back to stores. One of them hung back up chat to me and keep me company, despite the fact that they too were sodden and cold.

To them this wasn’t a big deal but to me it meant so much. Not only in a practical sense but I knew that people had my back and I had theirs. Even if you were having a terrible day, you weren’t alone.

Now, this kind of culture didn’t happen overnight, but it was deeply rooted and meant that a job that was long hours, low pay and didn’t hold much scope for advancement had good staff retention, very little absence and minimal staff conduct issues.

But how was this achieved?

Well, every morning, before we started the activities staff and group leaders (pastoral types) got together in a little shed-like room for a team huddle. We would discuss the plan for the day, cover any lessons learnt from the previous day, ask for extra help if we had too much on our plate and (really importantly) it was an opportunity for us to simply chat, have a laugh and bond as a team. Then we all disappeared in every direction to start work, fully clued up on what was going on and what we were working towards as a team.

There was no corny ‘hands in the middle’ or awkward team chants, we simply covered what needed to be covered, had a laugh and then, got to it.

“Come on, everyone, let’s turn the cringe up to 11!”

Now, you may be thinking ‘How do you know that’s what created the culture?’ which is a fair question. So, let’s imagine that we didn’t do it.

  • We wouldn’t have seen or spoken to many people in our day
  • We wouldn’t know about any issues
  • We wouldn’t know if someone had a tough group or session that required a lot of prep
  • We would have just turned up to work and started, hoping that others were doing the same

And if you think back to your workplace, how many of us find that those 4 points are exactly what happens every day?

Here’s what a daily huddle can accomplish in your company

  1. A strong sense of ‘team’

When everyone understands the goal you’re working towards, whether a daily goal or the big ‘why’ then everyone feels bonded to a shared outcome. A daily meeting creates consistency, routine and familiarity, all of which are essential elements for a team.

  1. Transparency

How often have you felt like management are hiding something from you? Or having conversations that you really wish weren’t whispers behind closed doors. A daily meeting is an opportunity for management to talk about pressing matters, discuss issues and give people a general sense of what’s going on.

This also works the other way too as management can get a sense of how people are doing, what’s on their mind and whether something needs addressing (see the next point)

  1. A way to intercept issues before they become problems

Whether it’s an issue with another staff member, a client or something specific to the job, a daily huddle means that the issue can be shared, talked through and addressed before it becomes something bigger.

  1. An opportunity to laugh & bond

OK so this sounds a little cheesy but it’s completely true. Jokes and banter can be a perfectly healthy thing if done in a way that isn’t degrading or lessening someone else.

I remember one meeting one of the guys turned up, looking a little worse for wear and only wearing one shoe. Someone said to him “Lost a shoe?” and he responded “No…I found one” to which the entire room erupted with laughter and it created a moment that was the source of jokes for months afterwards and I still smile when I think about it all these years later. (In case you’re worried, the person in question was office based and doing general clerical work so there wasn’t a safety concern)

  1. It encourages peer support

Just 15 minutes each day is plenty of time for people to get together, share, ask, discuss and creates opportunity for a quiet “Have you got time for a quick chat?” before the day gets busy. It’s also an opportunity for the more aware and empathic amongst us to identify if someone might be a littler quieter or distant than usual and creates the opportunity for a genuine “Are you OK mate?”. This is especially true in workplaces where the job is hard going like healthcare, support work, emergency services and (believe it or not) legal.

Now at this point you might be thinking of all the reasons why this wouldn’t work for your organisation, and you might be right. It might not be suitable. But is there some form of it that would work for you?

In the example above, we met 10 minutes before starting for the day, that 10 minutes was paid, there was a loose agenda of things we always overed but in general it was pretty relaxed and informal.

Your huddle could be before starting or after the day is done. It could be before another meeting. You might want an agenda or just let it flow. It could be daily or weekly (anything more and it becomes a bit tick-boxy). Is it going to require change? Probably. Can change be uncomfortable? Yup Is it worth it? Almost certainly.

Before we part ways, I’ll leave you with this classic (if slightly clichéd) saying

“If you change nothing, nothing will change” (That will be the first and last time I quote Tony Robbins).