I used to have dinner (and dinner discussion) regularly with my boss – one of the best leaders I know.
This was many years ago when I worked for a small consulting firm. Our work with clients was out of town. The handful of us onsite with the client would go our separate ways during the day and then come together at dinner.
The discussions were beyond valuable. Here is what happened at dinner:
- We each told war stories about our day. We would all commiserate with each horror story and then tell each other to stop whining.
- Our leader would tell us about his day, his challenges, and why he was doing what he was doing with the client and for the business.
- We discussed challenges and got perspectives from the different disciplines and experiences represented. Each of us got to think about how we would solve problems if we encountered them in the future, building a collective experience.
- We learned what each other was up to.
- We made commitments and reported on our progress.
- Oh yeah, we ate great food and sometimes added some great wine.
I just read a management instruction tip – “Order pizza and call it a celebration.” Some advice really makes me shake my head. That’s not what we’re talking about.
Those big group pot luck lunches and dinners are nice but do you get to substance?
Here are the business buzzwords that were at play in our team dinners:
- Team Building
- Experiential Learning
I’d say time well spent.
A lot has been written about the optimal size of a team. I think team size should be geared to the size that allows you to go to dinner together with the substance we’re describing here. Structuring an organization of hundreds of people in a way that allows this level of intimacy is tough, but not impossible.
As the leader, this is a conscious commitment to spend this type of quality time. Don’t forget, this is what leadership is all about.
To do this week: Go out to dinner with your team. Experiment. Observe what happens during that dinner.
Let me know how it’s goes. Click the “comments” box below to participate in an on-going discussion via LinkedIn.