Back in 2000, when we moved into our second office, we had this huge area in the middle that was totally empty. To fill it up, we brought in some random patio furniture. We thought we could create a fun space to have social meetings while making the place not look so empty. The "Patio" was born.
The building had been a Wal-Mart retail space and it was about 32,000 square feet. We only had 18 associates at the time. So each person had nearly 2,000 sq ft to themselves. It was bold, or stupid, depending on how it would work out.
As we grew, we would gather in that huge patio area to do all sorts of group meetings. We would bang a gong for new customer wins, discuss an upcoming software release or develop a plan for dealing with the leaky roof if a big storm was coming. That patio became the home of our "patio meeting." It became the tangible, visible, representation of the soul of the company. It was here that we learned the importance of emotion in business success.
Our gatherings grew as our headcount grew. We would all stand in a circle, or oval or bent oval-circle and do crazy stuff. We would do cheers or contort our bodies into strange shapes. We would paint the names of our competitors on old computers and monitors and smash them while yelling really loud. We celebrated our successes, came together to discuss ideas and got emotional about our failures. Our team bond and culture was formed in that circle.
If you’ve never worked at a start-up with a small group of people who believe they can change the world, then this imagery may seem very natural for that setting. However, I can tell you that getting people to show emotion at work is harder than you might think. It was awkward for me to call a meeting and get in that circle and make fifty or one hundred people dance a jig. People resisted. A few even complained. But we pushed forward. We had to teach ourselves that emotions were not only good, they were absolutely essential for our survival and eventual success.
There are many companies and many smart groups of people. However, only a few have large-scale success. I believe that a key ingredient of those teams that are successful is emotion. There are so many social norms that cause us to bottle up or hide our true emotions at work and therefore put a lid on teams. The few who are brave enough to get out of their comfort zone, to be embarrassed for the sake of the team, are the ones who break through to bigger levels.
Create your own "patio meeting" and do a dance. People may resist you at first, but, if you stick with it, they will come to appreciate you and how you helped them unlock the true greatness inside of themselves. And then you will be amazed by what big things they will do.