W Christian Consulting

What could you be doing better?

Let’s do Lunch!

I like to eat. People who get to know me figure that out really quickly.

The last team I led was known for our mutual enjoyment of food. We had Taco Tuesdays, Waffle Wednesdays, Take-out Thursdays, and lunches at Fogo de Chao–not all in the same week but on a regular and frequent basis. Oh, there was also the Cookie Club in which the entire office participated. When I travel back to the area, although we have each gone our separate ways, my team still gets together for a meal.

Holiday Dinner

Leftovers from Christmas Dinner 2013

While I do simply like a good meal, these meals were actually strategic and a new Cornell University study reported in Harvard Business Review backs that up. Apparently, the researchers have learned what I (and countless others) already knew from my many years working in my church: Sharing a meal brings people together.

Informally and regularly breaking bread together can break down barriers.

I don’t mean working lunches although those can be a good start and can be sprinkled in once you have a rhythm. No, informal mealtime when people get to know each other’s thought process and even their strengths and weaknesses can work wonders in getting a team to work together.

Note that the meals need to be frequent. A quarterly pig-in or holiday lunch aren’t regular enough to get past the superficiality. As we go into the Christmas and holiday luncheon season, notice how superficial and unfamiliar your conversations are. For sure, there will be one or two people who’ve been in the office for years or who socialize outside of work who will be chatting about seemingly personal things, but the vast majority of the conversations–especially if you have several new team mates–will be “getting to know you” conversations. That’s OK. That’s what we do at meals; we get to know each other. The key is to carry that momentum forward so we don’t forget who each other is before the next farewell or welcome lunch. It doesn’t have to be a major production either. Try a weekly breakfast at the local diner or grab a meeting room for a team bring-your-own lunch.

Lastly, the HBR article also warns against the meal becoming a cliquish event where people break into their segregated huddles intentionally or unintentionally ostracizing other people. That should go without saying, but anyone who’s ever heard of unconscious bias knows that it doesn’t.

Don’t let this year’s Luncheon be just something you do because it’s that time of year.* To totally abuse an overused phrase, let the Christmas spirit continue throughout the year.

* It’s bad enough that that’s how many people treat Christmas itself! But that’s perhaps a different blog post.