The most successful teams come together with open communication, trust, and shared values. Just as with family or friends, sharing a meal contributes to that.
So, nothing new to report there. Building a cohesive team, one that is present, strong and positive, results in better performance and engagement. 70% of executives in an HBR study “rank employee engagement as very important to achieving organizational success.” In our experience, mindful teams – teams more aware of and attending to each other - solve problems together, communicate more clearly, set and achieve common goals, build trust and deal more effectively with challenge and change.
more control than picking your family but less control than picking your friends, you're still probably sharing at least a few meals a week with these people
What has food got to do with all that?
One way to build a mindful team is through the preparation of food. According to Ben Dattner in the Harvard Business Review, cooking and eating a meal together builds a sense of interdependence and collaboration. “At some primitive level, people that we hunt or gather with, cook with and then eat with become our allies rather than our adversaries,” says Dattner. In the competitive, silo’d world of executive teams, every active step toward allies versus adversaries is a good step.
“At some primitive level, people that we hunt or gather with, cook with and then eat with become our allies rather than our adversaries.”
Eating as a community has been an important part of the human experience for millennia. Kevin Kniffin, of Cornell University, (HBR, December 2015) also believes that eating together “is such a primal behavior that it can be extraordinarily meaningful.”
It was only during the last half of the last century when the experience of sharing a meal together began to break down. Preparing and sharing a healthy meal together can instill feelings of trust, and increase communication and listening skills – and it doesn’t have to be hard.
Interesting – But Make It Practical
Mindfully fueling your team doesn’t have to be complicated and you wouldn’t likely do it every day. Preparing a meal isn’t something done every day. The “mindfully” aspect of fueling is also about smart choices that build and maintain energy during the day and good health all of the time. Certain snack foods may hold up in the bowl or vending machine for weeks, but the reason they do is the reason you should avoid them. Some of our ideas are found here.
For meals, consider these real examples from our experience:
- For the inevitable “working lunch,” periodically have one where the work is something other than the week’s priorities.
- Create a meal together at someone’s house as part of the annual goal setting process or year-end review meeting.
- Adopt a “lunch & learn” practice of hearing from an external expert on an agreed list of interesting topics each month.
- Have a byob (breakfast) meeting periodically - without the boss. Key point – if it’s optional and people opt out, it’s not a team experience.
The meal itself does not require a commercial kitchen with lots of fancy equipment. With a little planning and communication with each other or a food vendor, you can arrange local, fresh produce and even precooked proteins with the equipment you may need (knives, bowls, cutting boards, etc.). Remember, this isn’t a cooking competition show – it’s a way to do something together that reinforces good teamwork.
Another thing to remember – not everyone feels or thinks the same way about food. Just as being mindfully centered does not mean mandatory seated meditation for all, mindfully fueled does not mean the team dictates everyone’s diet. Mindfully Teaming is about familiarity and respect – so please enjoy that cookie and I’ll enjoy being with you as you do.
We all must eat to live. Living mindfully fueled is not so much about doing new and different things as it is doing things we already do differently. Integrating mindful fueling with your team may feel different – but the difference is more likely to be how you think and feel about each other rather than how you think and feel about food. It is a great way to bring your team together, to provide the best fuel for the creativity, productivity and health that drives success.
The information provided here is not meant to replace any information of treatment prescribed by a physician or other licensed health care practitioner. It is for your information only. Consult your doctor before beginning any new physical program.
APP offers a highly engaging, skill-building one-day program for management teams in these practice areas as well as on-going support and coaching. Building competence, particularly for the personal safety and personal centeredness practices, would benefit from working with professionals like Anne and Chris.