September 25, 2019

70: Why + How to Gather with Lindsey Caplan

Meetings are one of the essential tools that managers use to get work done. While meetings are prolific, they’re only a tool to accomplish some larger purpose. How we design, structure, and engage people in these gatherings is critical.

Lindsey Caplan has been gathering people for over 15 years – first to entertain, as a comedy writer in Hollywood, then to educate for companies like DreamWorks Animation and McKinsey, and now to transform as an organizational psychologist as the Head of Talent Development for successful Silicon Valley companies like Zendesk, Credit Karma, and Flexport. Lindsey helps companies drive organizational change by applying lessons in gathering from entertainment, education, and business and she is currently writing a book on “Gathering”.

Lindsey and I talk about the unique role of the manager, how to design gatherings to accomplish some purpose, how to engage people in the gathering process which generates better thinking, deeper buy in, and more.

Read the related blog article: Gatherings Should be Personal, Productive and Powerful

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  • A manager’s job is to move people from A to B: from under-performer to high-performer, from one level to another.
  • The unique aspect of a manager’s role is that we’re responsible for people more than products or services.
  • It’s not enough to gather people in a room and talk at them. We need to engage people if we want them to act, buy-in, share ideas, etc.
  • Gatherings can take many forms: meeting, workshop or learning session, town hall, etc.
  • There are four reasons to gather: (1) Compliance: ensure specific actions are taken, (2) Engagement: generate new thinking, buy-in, ongoing ownership, (3) Informing: ensure information is internalized, (4) Entertainment: bring about a sense of delight
  • We need to create safe spaces if we want people to engage. Managers should role model by sharing why they want to hear from each person, be explicit that they don’t have all the answers, connecting as humans by sharing auto-biographical information, and connecting the content to what matters to each participant.
  • It’s important to focus on creating the right conditions and worry less about creating good content. Let the group create the content.
  • Treat participants like adults. Invite them to engage, give them choices, and explain why you’re asking these questions.


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