Socialasing with colleagues is essential element of building great team. With Maksim Golub and founder of School of Troubleshooters Oleg Braginsky, we look into how putting time spent separately and together during such important ritual as sharing meal with peers could lead to interesting insights and results.
There is an obsession with not eating a lunch alone, so folks tend to pack more meetings into their days. After doing the same for some period of time and following the advice of Mr. K. Ferrazi this approach seemed to be a powerful tool. With more thinking, different insights better usage of time came to mind.
On surface it looked good, but after disassembling, and weighting pros and cons it appeared that usually it may not match the goals and there are different things that could be accomplished with more speed, success or impact. Let’s look into the alternatives of how and why the time could be spend differently.
Having own headspace. I firmly believe that your lunch time is the when you can disconnect and think deeply. You’d argue that it is better to socialise with your colleagues or random people around: I use to approach to strangers that were sitting at the food courts, sit with them and engage into their conversations.
I’d say that you can do it when you in the mood for that. You can learn more about your colleagues when you work on something together, when you set time to socialise, but don’t make it your daily routine or some kind of social duty. Instead, the valuable brain power could be allocated to solve current tasks.
By all means, I work with interesting people, and have awesome friends amongst my colleagues. The aspiration is to have thoughtful and deeper connections with them. It is more like a long-term investment. When you have a limited capital, you don’t spend it here and there, but rather meticulously strategize.
Hence, there were a lot of mini-feast with egg and onion paratas, murtabaks, chicken rice, plenty of hotpots, laksa, a bit of bakkwa, bowls of bak kut teh along with pho bo, or bahn mi, mostly tapao when in rush, kopi c siew dai or kosong, teh halia, many xei xei’s to uncles and aunties and each of these meals was special.
Manager should always think about the work, even if they not in the office or it is way past after working hours. It feels that the higher you go, the blurry the lines between different compartments of life will be. Recently, I was encouraged to compare it with the life of a predator: all you think is about a good hunt.
If the need to switch the gears or cool down is present, there is a thing that I’d call ‘education debt’. It could be a book, a video, an article. There might be even a room to do a bit of practice with card tricks, learn a new formula, try to solve a business-cases or repeat and turn into concepts things you learned online.
Along with learning new things, there should be a barrier for mindlessly consuming new stuff. From the first moment the browser is opened, brain craves for its endorphins, demanding more, urging to launch feed-based, reward-rich applications. Simple draw a line and use it only when being summoned there.
Sometimes it’s good to do quite an opposite of what everyone else do. Instead of joining queues of employees going to get the food, couple of tasks could be accomplished or calls made. Given that the level of distractions decreases, it provides better options to get into the zone and focus to enjoy reward later.
The great habit that was developed is detachment. Yes, you are a good friend colleague, but you also a manager, who needs to utilise most of their time and turn every minute into something useful. Splitting your consciousness and walking into different shoes allowed to make drastic, well-thought, efficient decisions.
The second big consideration is time and scope. Let’s take an example: When developing a feature, there are no small changes. It should plan, allocating, validating, developing, testing, keeping marketing, customer support, sales team in the loop, checking for compliance, updating documentation or FAQ’s.
Let’s pretend that one-on-one lunch is a project. Sharing food with a single person could be relatively fast, you prepare in advance, get a quick bite with a lovely chat, and then walk back. Simple initiation, neat execution, nice finalisation. Budget is under control, few risks, fast decision-making, predicted outcome.
Doing lunches within a group of people is less manageable process. First, you need to plan it. Hard deadlines might be ignored, missed, changed last minute. And even after that there will be a person who just saw it and desperately need to join, rushing from the 20th floor downstair to meet the rest of team.
Planning may not over here. If not decided in advance, some of the time would be invested into picking a place, weighting pros and cons. Putting into our risk registry random attempts to change the course of action, because of the promo in the nearest restaurant would also have certain probability to be trigged.
Selecting single or shared food may also take time. Consider diet, taste, mood. When the lunch is over, people would have chat or soaked into their phones, disconnecting from real world, until polite questions of whether everyone has finished eating arise followed by a mini-project of calculating the shared bill.
Slightly slower promenade back to the office which sometimes could lead to impromptu 1-1’s or interesting or even fruitful conversations. A bit of funds from the time bank would be spend on getting some soft drinks or coffee before arriving into the comfort of the chair, embracing to eagerly awaiting post-lunch food coma.
This process could easily take around one and a half or two hours followed by another hour of fighting with the stomach, demanding resources to process all of the commodities it’s been loaded with. It’s good to have this once in a while. Making it a nearly daily ritual would make a productivity to incur great losses.
Yet, the better way to keep connections is have them more frequently using “by the by” approach. Have some work interaction, then mix it with some informal element. A second alternative is to employ coffee breaks: get a fresh air, walk towards the place, chat, get a drink, go back, keep the conversation going.
The occasional face-to-face interaction would allow to open a better potential of collaboration. There will be an opportunity to learn person from the different aspects of their individuality and work style comparing to hour-long conversation which may be perceived as an interview or a ritual that burdens both parties.
Having optimized lunches is not about being anti-social, is about making more impact to work and to relationship with colleagues, developing them in multiple soft touches. The same way as an artist would pick a different color, choose their brush, make a stoke, let it dry, repeat until the entire picture is ready.