Savor special moments

Gloria Gaither wrote a meaningful song titled, We Have This Moment. The chorus says,

We have this moment to hold in our hands,                                                                                                                                 And to touch, as it slips through our fingers like sand.                                                                                                         Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come.                                                                                                                     But we have this moment today. 

The song encourages us to savor the present, to delight in the moment. Reflect on past experiences and anticipate future ones, but let’s also maximize the present.   

Not all moments are equal in character or significance. Most are mundane and monochromatic; but others have the capacity to engender joy, peace, solidarity, and a sense of the numinous. I call the latter—special moments. 

Special moments add value to our lives and they can give us the strength to carry on.

I suggest that…

Some special moments can be anticipated

In October, I’m hosting a trip to Europe for 36 friends. We’ll visit London, Paris, Lisbon, Barcelona, Florence, and Rome. I have identified at least 20 special moments we will experience together, including: 

    • In London we’ll visit Westminster Abbey and reflect on the lives of some exceptional individuals who are buried there (Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens, Chaucer, David Livingston, Samuel Johnson, and others).  
    • In Rome we’ll walk into St. Peter’s Basilica (I think it’s the greatest building on earth; finished in 1616, it occupies 5.7 acres under roof and holds 60,000 people), and we’ll tour the Roman Coliseum.
    • In Florence we’ll gaze at Michelangelo’s statue of David.

Before we experience these momentous moments, I’m going to ask the group to pause and sing Gaither’s chorus. Hopefully it will alert us to the potential of what we’ll soon experience.

Special moments also happen serendipitously 

I’m planting a small vineyard in east Texas. Several weeks ago my daughter and I spent the night in the vineyard. Not at the vineyard, but in the vineyard. We laid down a blanket between rows six and seven and slept under the stars. I had not anticipated what a remarkable moment it would be, but it was memorable.

Special moments can be created

My immediate family all live in Dallas so we’re able to have family dinners on a regular basis. They are special moments. At one such dinner, each person brought three random ingredients (an onion, pineapple, spinach, mussels, etc.), we divided up into teams of two, each team chose, one at a time, an ingredient until they were all gone, and then each team had to cook a dish using all their ingredients—without recipes.  

I have fond memories of that evening.  

We need to recognize special moments

In a banal setting and at an inconvenient time, would people pause to observe transcendent beauty?

That was the question the Washington Post sought to answer when it commissioned Joshua Bell, one of the foremost violin players of our generation, to play in a Washington subway station during morning rush hour.

Dressed in a nondescript manner—jeans, T-shirt, and baseball cap—Bell opened up his case, took out his violin—called the Gibson ex Huberman, handcrafted in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari—and began to play magnificent music. He started with “Chaconne” from Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor. Some have called it the greatest piece of music ever written; others consider it one of the greatest achievements of any human, ever.

For 45 minutes, one of the greatest musicians alive, playing one of the greatest instruments ever made, played some of the greatest music ever written.

Did anyone stop to listen?

It was all recorded on camera. Eleven hundred people walked by; seven stopped to listen; twenty-seven threw money into the open case for a total of $32.

The night before, Bell had sold out Boston’s Symphony Hall where the cheapest seat goes for $100. He regularly earns $1,000 per minute for concerts.

I think memorable moments happen around us all the time; we just don’t recognize them or take the time to appreciate and bask in them.  

Special moments should be savored

In her book, Peace Is Every Step, Thich Nhat Hanh tells a story about being a child and taking half an hour, sometimes 45 minutes, to finish a cookie that his mother bought him. “I would take a small bite and look up at the sky. Then I would touch the dog with my feet and take another small bite. I just enjoyed being there, with the sky, the earth, the bamboo thickets, the cat, the dog, the flowers.”

When was the last time you took time to savor a special moment? Well that’s too long.

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Don’t pick up the baby

I’ve been to India four times. India has been described as a “shock to the senses”—what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel often seems otherworldly. 

It’s also difficult to grasp how populous the country is. One of my hosts tried to explain by saying: “There are more honor students (top 10% of the class) in India than there are students in America, simply because there are so many high school students in India.” 

On the first day of my first trip to India, my host warned me: “Don, while in New Delhi, you will probably be approached by a woman carrying a baby. She will try to engage with you, show you a beautiful infant, and then she will offer to let you hold the baby. Do not take the baby in your arms because the woman will walk away and the baby will be yours. Then you’ll have to find an orphanage to take it, or you’ll have to place the baby down on the sidewalk and walk away (children are sometimes abandoned on the streets by desperate mothers). Whatever you do, don’t pick up the baby.” 

I’ve thought of that story often. The moral of the anecdote is: think carefully before you get involved in, or become responsible for, something that is not your responsibility and something that may incumber you for a long time. It may be a kind and generous act that you’re contemplating, but think carefully before committing. 

Sometimes you may be called upon to “pick up the baby” because it is your baby—for instance, accepting responsibility for a family member. But sometimes the “baby” may be a friend, employee, or neighbor, in which case you do have a choice whether or not to get involved. If you do pick it up, know when and how to put it down.

Leaders:

  1. Think carefully before taking a position with an organization that is spiraling downward. You may be “picking up” something you’ll later wish you hadn’t.
  2. When selecting team members, go slow and be sure; it’s easy to hire but hard to fire. When selecting team members don’t be naive or unduly empathetic toward questionable candidates. Don’t pick up the baby.

Individually:

  1. Be wise and vigilant before committing to primary relationships (spouse, having children) because they’re hard to disengage from.
  2. If you have “picked up a baby” consider if and how you can “put it down.”

This is a difficult topic.

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

My trip to Peru

Mary and I like to travel. Our goal is to visit 60 countries (Peru was #47). We also want to see the four wonders of the ancient world (Egyptian pyramids in Giza,  Petra in Jordan,  Machu Picchu in Peru, and Angkor Wat in Cambodia). We’ve seen the pyramids, and Petra; this trip took us to Machu Picchu.

Our seven-day trip focused on the Sacred Valley, the home of the Inca civilization. It immediately became one of our favorite destinations. Peru is the ideal gateway to South America.

It’s a paradise for nature lovers; it has 84 of the world’s 114 Holdridge life zones; it holds world records in highest diversity for birds (1,816 species), butterflies (3,532 species) and orchids (3,500 species). Peru has the largest indigenous population of South America, with almost half its 29 million people being of native descent. Living in the Amazonian Basin or in remote mountain villages, they still dress in their traditional style, observe ancient customs, and continue to speak Quechua, Aymara, or other languages.

We felt safe, welcomed, and accommodated.

I enjoyed it so much, I think I’ll put together a trip to Peru for my friends.

Here are some pictures.

Leaders, your most important job is to build and manage a great team — part 3 of 3 – develop your team

Your opinion please: When someone says "I love you," must we respond with "I love you too?"

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In her book, Mindset : The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck relates that when she asks people, “Try to picture Thomas Edison as vividly as you can. Think about where he is and what he’s doing. Is he alone?” Most people picture him as an eccentric scientist tinkering around his laboratory all by himself. But Dweck writes, “Edison was not a loner. For the invention of the lightbulb, he had thirty assistants, including well-trained scientists, often working around the clock in a corporate-funded state-of-the-art laboratory.”

Great accomplishments are achieved by great teams.

This three-part series is about team building. Part 1 focused on the importance of having a great team. Part 2 considered how to select good team members. This third and final part centers on how to develop your team.   

A compilation of great individuals does not automatically create a great team. It takes wisdom and effort to mold the group into an organism in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Here are some suggestions on how to do that.  

1. Spend time as a team, both on the job and socially. 

Emails and conference calls may be adequate to handle tactical and logistical issues but for esprit de corps to develop, face-time is needed. A regularly scheduled, well-planned staff meeting will help meet this need. 

Also, spend time together outside of the office, in social settings. Don’t underestimate the value of spending informal time with your team. Share a meal together; travel together; host an event where team members’ families can get together. 

 Informal interaction greases the wheels of formal collaboration.

2. Spend time with individual team members.

Develop a personal relationship with each team member. Show genuine concern for their personal well-being and not just how they function organizationally. Get to know their family, their hobbies, and other interests.  

The Gallup organization found that no single factor more precisely predicts the productivity of an employee than his relationship with his direct supervisor. They found that an employee is most happy and productive when he feels his supervisor cares for him, praises him regularly, and encourages his development.

3. Encourage robust discussion and robust dialogue among team members.

A group of scientists at Google embarked on a four-year study of how the best teams function. They found that how a group interacts is more important than who is in the group.

Robust communication occurs in a group when everyone is encouraged and allowed to give their unfiltered input on important issues. It is based on the truth that any idea or plan will be improved upon when submitted to the wisdom of others. 

Create an environment among your team in which there is freedom to disagree and discuss controversial issues. Michael Schrage says, “One of the myths about effective teams is that they are characterized by chumminess. Many look more like battlegrounds.”

There is a subtle but important difference between robust discussion and robust dialogue.

Engage in robust discussion when you want to fine-tune something that already exists. 

  • “Take a look at this brochure and tell me how it can be improved before we print it.”
  • “Let’s critique the seminar we had last weekend.” 
  • “We’re thinking about switching software. Here are some options. What do you think?”

Engage in robust dialogue when you want to conceptualize something new.

  • “If we were to start a new division, what do you think it should be?”
  • “How can we grow 15% in the next twelve months?”
  • “In our organization, what do we do well? What do we need to improve?”

Teach team members the art of participation and the art of dissent. 

4. Strive for synergy. 

If one ox can pull a 4,500-pound load, how much can two oxen pull when yoked together? One might think 9,000 pounds, but because of the synergy that is developed through the two pulling together, they can tow 12,000 pounds. 

That’s the power of synergy. Synergy is the energy that is generated through the working together of various parts or processes. Stephen Covey describes compromise as 1+1 = 1.5 and synergy as 1+1 = 3. 

A prerequisite of synergy is alignment. Peter Senge defines alignment as a group of people functioning as a whole: “Alignment is the necessary condition before empowering the individual will empower the whole team. Empowering the individual when there is a relatively low level of alignment worsens the chaos and makes managing the team even more difficult.”  

Synergy is often illusive and it can’t be simply mandated. But you can make sure the elements that are conducive to synergy are present. And, you’ll know when it happens.

5. Resolve team conflicts. 

When team members work closely together, conflict is inevitable. If there’s never any noticeable conflict there’s probably some lurking under the surface and that’s the most dangerous kind. Conflict should never become the norm and it must not be allowed to escalate, but it is inevitable so don’t be startled or dispirited by it, but do resolve it.   

6. Coach your team members.

Productive team members don’t just want a cheerleader; they want a coach to push them to excellence. 

Ken Blanchard asserts, “I believe providing feedback is the most cost-effective strategy for improving performance and instilling satisfaction.” 

Andy Stanley says, “In the world of athletics, the coach does not withhold his opinion until asked. Neither does he sit back and watch his protégé make the same mistake over and over without saying something. In the same way, a good leadership coach will do everything in his power to ensure progress. Like an athletic coach, a leadership coach operates as if he has something on the line.”

Sometimes, the terms “mentor” and “coach” are used synonymously, but they are significantly different. 

      • A mentor says, “I do; you watch and learn.”
      • A coach says, “You do; I will watch and give immediate feedback.”

The difference between a mentor and a coach can be illustrated by considering a baseball player who wants to improve his batting average. One option is to study videos of great hitters—Babe Ruth at the plate—his stance and swing. The aspiring player studies Babe and emulates his stance and swing. Babe is his mentor.

Another option is for him to hire a batting coach who will hand the player a bat, observe him in action, and then give immediate feedback. 

A leader should coach her team members.

7. Have a plan for developing each of your team members.

As a servant-leader, desire the personal and professional well-being of each team member. Be their advocate and encourage their growth. When they outgrow their present position, find them a more challenging one. If your organization cannot offer advanced opportunities, help them transition to another organization that can. 

8. Know your team members and allow them to know you.

One approach to leadership suggests that a leader should remain aloof from her team members, maintaining distance and even a measure of indifference. In other words, know your team members but don’t let them know you. 

I suggest just the opposite approach: know your team members and allow them to know you. Be their friend. Be vulnerable and transparent about your personal feelings, thoughts, and challenges. Obviously, appropriate boundaries should be maintained, but strive to develop a more relational-based team dynamic.  

9. Empower team members; give them opportunity, freedom, and security. 

Recruit good people and then empower them to do their work. Give them the authority to make decisions and then support their decisions. Don’t micromanage.

Delegate outcomes, not just tasks. It’s okay to give direction—what to do—but let them decide how to do it.

Allow people to fail. Allowing people to fail empowers them to succeed in ways they never would have imagined. Don’t punish failure; sanction passivity. Failure at least implies some sort of output. Also, create an environment in which if people fail, they’ll have a “soft landing.” If there is a fear of failure in your organization there won’t be much experimentation, innovation, or learning.

10. Periodically, as a team, analyze and evaluate how you’re working together. 

As a team, talk about your team. Ask diagnostic questions like: Are we benefiting from the power of synergy or is everyone just pulling his or her own load? Do we engage in robust dialogue? Does anyone feel isolated or alone? Are we being transparent and honest with each other? Are there unspoken frustrations regarding working together? How can we do a better job of compensating for each other’s weaknesses and highlighting strengths?

Most significant achievements are accomplished through teams of people. Someone is leading the team but it is the collective effort that achieves. Margaret Mead, the famous American anthropologist, once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” As a leader, your job is to assemble, develop and employ a great team that will fulfill a worthy vision that will make a difference.

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Question: I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine over this issue: When someone tells you “I love you” is it necessary to respond with “I love you too”? My friend says, yes. I think a required response dilutes its value. Why not just say, “Thank you; that means a lot to me.” And then in a different setting, reciprocate with terms of endearment. What do you think? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Was this an employee problem or an employer problem?

A restaurant in my neighborhood opens at 5:00 p.m.for dinner. Recently, when I arrived around 5:15, I was the only customer. I seated myself in a booth. The waitpersons were huddled together, talking and laughing. They didn’t even know I was there. I decided to wait silently until one of them noticed me. I waited 10 minutes.

In another recent incident, I took my grandson to an outdoor pool at a local country club. Kids were swimming; parents were sunbathing. I noticed that the young lifeguards were all huddled around one lifeguard station, laughing and “hanging out,” as teenagers are prone to do. The problem was, they weren’t doing their job, which was to diligently watch for swimmers in distress.   

In both instances, I was initially upset at the employees. They were derelict in their duties. Their job was to serve customers but instead, they were focused on each other.

Upon further reflection, I realized that fundamentally, this was not an employee problem, it was a managerial problem. Why hadn’t supervisors properly trained these employees? Why weren’t managers monitoring real-time performance and correcting deviations from standards? 

Leaders/managers, that’s part of your job. 

One reason why I love to spend time on a cruise ship is that the employees are well managed. Every employee is attentive, works hard, on-time, and serves with a good attitude. Performance standards are set and enforced. (I heard that on one cruise, when a waiter insulted a passenger, at the next ports-of-call he was put off the ship and sent home.) 

When reasonable expectations are clearly set and fairly enforced, employees feel valued, secure, and productive. And customers are satisfied.

I also embrace the value of individual initiative and effort. In the previous scenarios (inattentive waiters, distracted lifeguards) each employee could have, and should have, broken off from the pack and done the right thing. (Those individuals are rare; look for them and value them.) But ultimately, the well-being of an organization is determined by the leader. 

Leaders/managers, that’s part of your job. 

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Leaders, your most important job is to build and manage a great team — part 2 of 3 – choose great team members

Last week I wrote that a leader’s most important job is choosing great team members. It’s the sine qua non of leadership. 

This week let’s think about how to choose great team members.

1.  A leader should be involved in compiling her team.

A leader should have the authority and responsibility to choose her team members. Sometimes a leader inherits a team, in which case she has to work with what she’s given. But when possible, the leader should have significant input into the process. 

Some leaders, for various reasons, are just not good at selecting team members. These leaders must rely on the help of others or they will make serious and long-lasting personnel mistakes. 

I’m good at selecting team members but I always create a search committee to help me because “all of us are smarter than one of us.”

So, when choosing team members, ask others to help, but be fully involved in the process. 

2. Carefully choose your team members. 

There’s an old adage from the garment industry: Measure twice; cut once. Before a seamstress cuts an expensive bolt of cloth he measures multiple times because once the cut is made it cannot be changed. Choosing your team is equally important. (Although, unlike cutting cloth, you can make changes to your team; but those changes usually bear a huge emotional and sometimes financial cost.)

Carefully selecting team members in a small organization is particularly important because there is no “bench”; every team member must contribute.

3. Choose leaders or potential leaders. 

If you want your organization to just function smoothly, choose followers. But if you want your organization to grow and prosper, recruit leaders. 

Every organization is restricted by its leadership quotient (the number of leaders in the organization and how competent they are). The higher your leadership quotient, the better. So always try to choose leaders to serve on your team, not just followers.

4. Avoid the diminishing-expertise syndrome.

Surround yourself with people who are better than you are.

This suggestion is not for the insecure and paranoid; it takes a lot of emotional fortitude and self-confidence to recruit and empower people who are smarter, more competent, more edgy, and more connected than you are. But if you don’t, you and your organization will suffer from the diminishing-expertise syndrome. This disorder can be illustrated by considering a matryoshka doll. 

A favorite toy among Russian children, the matryoshka doll is a series of wooden dolls, inside of each other, that get progressively smaller and smaller. Open up the largest doll and you’ll find a smaller, identical doll. Open up that doll and there is yet a smaller one. There may be as many as 15 dolls inside the largest one.

The application to team building is obvious. If the person at the top of the organization hires someone who is “smaller” than he is, and then that person recruits someone who is “smaller” than him and this selection criteria continues to cascade down through the entire organization, it will weaken your organization. 

Another lesson to learn from these dolls is to observe that all the dolls are identical. If a leader is insecure or uninformed he may only select team members who “look like” himself, which will eventually limit the effectiveness of the team.   

So when recruiting team members, select people who are “bigger” than you and those who are different than you are. Choose the best and the brightest to serve on your team and your organization will prosper.

You may wonder, “But won’t that make me look bad?” No, it will make you look like a competent leader. Remember, leaders get work done through other people. Also, surrounding yourself with top-flight people will motivate you to continue to grow and become better yourself.

Warren Bennis says, “Great teams are headed by people confident enough to recruit people better than themselves.” 

5. Choose people who excel at both hard and soft skills. 

Hard skills determine competency. If you’re hiring a computer programmer, make sure she’s a good programmer. If you’re hiring an organist, make sure he plays well. Usually, past performance is a good predictor of future performance so investigate the candidate’s previous work, and if possible, observe him in action. 

If you’re hiring for a leadership position, look for these six hard skills: craft vision, develop a team, be a change agent, execute well, communicate well, and develop leaders. 

Soft skills determine how well a person interacts with other people. A computer programmer may be good at programming but have a toxic effect on the work environment. A brilliant organist may fail at his job because he can’t get along with people. 

Soft skills include: be a lifelong-learner, have good character, be emotionally intelligent, be authentic, have good people skills, and be able to inspire others.

Choose team members who are both competent (hard skills) and kind (soft skills). Both are necessary. You don’t want a competent jerk or a kind incompetent.

 Here are some other characteristics to look for when recruiting team members. 

6. Build a well-balanced team.

Here are three characteristics of a well-balanced team.

Diversity

We may be prone to choose people who are similar to us, but a team will be stronger if it is diverse. Pursue diversity in age, gifts, personality, gender, ethnicity, and background. Look for unanimity regarding values, beliefs, and culture. 

You must not only compile a diverse team, you must allow the diversity to express itself. Gary Heil says, “Recruiting a diverse workforce and then encouraging employees to act as a homogeneous group, where the tendency to agree interferes with critical thinking, is not success. It is merely a waste of human talent.”  

Complementary talents

Stephen Covey says, “A good team is a complementary team where people’s strengths are made productive and their weaknesses made irrelevant by the strengths of others.” A football team is best comprised of athletes with different but complementary talents; you wouldn’t want a team full of place kickers. 

All key positions filled

When building a team, stay with it until all key positions are filled. When he was manager of the Chicago Cubs, Charlie Grimm reportedly received a phone call from one of his scouts. “Charlie,” the scout said, “I’ve landed the greatest young pitcher in the land! He struck out every man who came to bat. Twenty-seven in a row. Nobody even hit a foul until the ninth inning. The pitcher is right here with me. What shall I do?” Charlie replied, “Sign up the guy who got the foul. We’re looking for hitters.” 

 7. Consider cultural issues when choosing team members. 

Every organization has its own unique culture—the sum of its values, beliefs, and norms of behavior. Culture runs deep; it’s like the current of a wide and deep river—it may be unseen but it is powerful and difficult to change. It’s not quite as fundamental as DNA (which cannot be changed) but it is very primal.

If you are satisfied with the culture of your organization, recruit leaders that will fit in and reinforce the culture. Mike Miles says, “You want to work with people who you will enjoy working with, and that part of the process is art and personal, not scientific or book-learned.”

If you want to change the culture of your organization, recruit leaders that exemplify the new culture you aspire to produce. But be prepared to swim upstream; culture is difficult to change. The new team members will likely face extreme and consistent resistance and you must defend and protect them.  

Building a great team takes time and tenacity. Because of turnover, it may be a never-ending job. But it is one of the most important tasks a leader does. Don’t take it lightly; the success of your organization depends on it.  

Two weeks from now we’ll think about how to develop and work with team members. 

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Leaders, your most important job is to build and manage a great team — part 1 of 3 – understand the importance of building a great team

First who, then what. Jim Collins

Twenty years ago I interviewed a friend who started and now manages a large company. He has 200 employees in the U.S. and about 15,000 in China. He designs and manufactures those obnoxious inflatables that you see in people’s yards on holidays – Santas at Christmas, scarecrows at Halloween.

Even today, I remember part of our conversation.

When I asked him his secret to building a successful business he immediately answered: “Hire the right people and take care of them.” I thought there must be more to it, so I asked him the same question in a different way. But his answer remained the same: Hire the right people and take care of them.

In my 40-year professional career, I’ve never managed a large organization or a sizable division,  but I’ve led small organizations and I’ve read extensively in the area of leadership. I embrace the same conclusion as my friend: The most important element of leadership is to hire the right people and take care of them.

Carefully read what these notable leaders say about the importance of choosing good team members.

  • “Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare. If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.” Patrick Lencioni
  • “How you select people is more important than how you manage them once they’re on the job. If you start with the right people, you won’t have problems later on. If you hire the wrong people, for whatever reason, you’re in serious trouble and all the revolutionary management techniques in the world won’t bail you out.” Red Auerbach, longtime Boston Celtics president
  • “A leader’s most important decisions fall into two categories: big bets on people and big bets on strategy. The people decisions are arguably more important because they heavily influence the strategy decisions.” David Nadler
  • “Given the many things that businesses can’t control (the economy, competitors) you’d think that companies would pay careful attention to the one thing they can control—the quality of their people, especially those in the leadership pool.” Larry Bossidy

Choose great team members. When you played sandlot baseball as a kid and you were able to choose your teammates, if you picked the best players you won. If you didn’t, you lost. The same goes for adult games; pick the best team members and your organization will prosper.

Next week we’ll think about how to choose good team members.

Three weeks from now I’ll write about how to develop your team members.

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

Enjoy the benefits of hospitality

In one of his letters, George Washington wrote that he and Martha had not had dinner at home alone for twenty years. Every night for twenty years—7,300 days in a row—they had guests and visiting dignitaries to entertain. (from: A. J. Jacobs, My Life as an Experiment, page 15)

Granted, this anecdote is rather extreme. If I insisted on entertaining this frequently, I would live as a single adult.

But, I think Mary and I (and probably you, too) go to the other extreme: we don’t extend hospitality enough. 

There’s a Spanish word that expresses the joy and benefit of hospitality—sobremesa—the time spent around the table after lunch or dinner, talking to the people you shared the meal with; time to digest and savor both food and friendship.

There is something profoundly satisfying about sharing a meal with other people. Eating together is one of the oldest and most fundamental unifying human experiences. It can simultaneously fulfill physical, emotional, and relational needs.

It will help establish and deepen friendships

If I share my food with you it’s either because I love you a lot, or because it fell on the floor and I don’t want it. (That’s a joke.) Truly, I can’t think of another setting that’s better for solidifying friendships than gathering to eat. It slows down our pace, narrows our space, focuses our attention, and creates a relaxing ambience—all of which are beneficial for deepening friendships.

It’s good for business

Since humans first walked the earth, we’ve known that sharing a meal can be good for business. For instance, a recent study revealed that it doesn’t take much to get a doctor to prescribe a brand-name medication—just a free meal. The study found that U.S. doctors who received a single free meal from a drug company were more likely to prescribe the drug than doctors who received no such meals. Meals paid for by drug companies cost less than $20 on average [Even Cheap Meals Influence Doctors’ Drug Prescriptions, Study Suggests, Peter Loftus, WSJ, June 20, 2016].

I’ve never understood why some organizations are so stingy with the amount of funds allocated for business meals. I once worked with a group of six senior executives at a $75 million-a-year business. They were frustrated that the CEO, in order to save money, eliminated their budget for business meals, which saved the company a whopping $24k a year. I suspect that poor decision cost the company ten times as much in lost revenue.

It engenders good will

Treat someone to a $15 lunch and they’ll be your friend forever. Well, that’s an exaggeration; but it is true that even a small amount of money and time will generate a lot of relational capital.

A weekly family meal can become a wonderful family tradition

I enjoy watching the sitcom, Bluebloods (on CBS). It follows the lives of three generations of New York City police officers. In every episode, there’s a scene showing their weekly, Sunday afternoon family meal in which they gather around the dinner table to talk, argue, laugh, and pass the potatoes. Every family would benefit from this tradition. [Note to my family: Are you reading this post?]

I double-dog-dare you: initiate and host meals and enjoy the sobremesa.

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.