One of the big mistakes I see in All-Hands meetings is that CEOs talk about the company's vision, "where we are going." They talk about new policies, rules, and parameters and hopefully acknowledge some good work by employees. It sounds a lot like the principal in a mid-year school assembly.
The result? People feel like they need to fit into the company's vision instead of feeling that they are taking part in creating a meaningful vision, where they share in the pride of ownership.
For example, I recently helped prep a CEO of a tech firm for an All-Hands meeting. Let's call him Michael. Michael was genuinely impressed, proud, and grateful to his employees who had worked virtually across five countries in eight widely different time zones to overcome a series of major obstacles. They raced through the holiday season to meet a seemingly impossible deadline, and they did it. Their customer was happy. They renewed commitment on the account, and life was good. However, Michael was about to leave out the cherry on the cake…the part of the movie where the music swells and the camera pushes in real tight: What good did this do for the client? How did it make the world—or at least their world—a better place? In this case, with very little digging, there was a deeply meaningful story to tell. Sometimes it takes more mining, but it's usually worth the effort.
Now, when Michael talked about how proud he was to lead this team, his words did not seem gratuitous. They had an impact like never before.
After this All-Hands, the employees, who are routinely invited to offer comments and evaluations, expressed one common theme: it was by far the most inspirational All-Hands they remember.