On Teambuilding through Eating

It somehow feels suitable to talk about eating just after Christmas and in the middle of the holidays, when we tend to eat…a lot!

A couple of weeks ago I read an article in the fantastic Harvard Business Review (HBR) on why the best team building happens while sharing meals and eating together. This resonated with me for one reason: It put words and thoughts on something I have felt for quite some time.

When I moved in to my latest offices in January of 2015 I happily noted the family-feeling around the office. Being a smaller co-working space (with fixed tenants) you quite never know, but in this case it was the social norm to have coffee together in the mornings, eat lunch together at noon and perhaps another cup of coffee in the afternoons.

Why am I sharing this? Because I’ve been to other offices and co-working spaces where the family-feeling simply doesn’t exist. Yet, here you felt like part of the family in an incredibly short amount of time. I testament at least part of this to the fact that we are sharing meals together (the other being that we’re all a nice group of people).

As the HBR article outlines, sharing meals is something intimate and socially very powerful. In essence, what we are (largely unknowingly) doing is creating a powerful familiar bond. Now, while this is individual small companies bonding together, the lesson can be learnt for other companies too. Sharing meals is clearly a very powerful team building thing, that naturally takes place every single day. Use it!

On Commenting in Public

With the rise of publicly available social media, it pays off to be just a little more mindful of what you are writing online. We’ve seen enough PR scandals for lifetimes by means of a simple innocent tweet sent in the spur of the moment.

What I’m after here is how social media have made it so much easier for us to be public people. What was previously only reserved for celebrities or influencers by way of newspapers and magazines, is now available mainstream.

With this comes an important lesson about commenting in public. That is, you need to be very mindful of what you are writing and how it can come across, from multiple viewpoints. There is a reason why the PR and communication industry exists: Communication is hard.

My argument is that everyone needs to think a little more about the difference of commenting in the semi-public (in groups of friends, to colleagues etc.) in comparison to the true public. While ideally the same rules apply, the public is a much harder place.

If you are someone in a higher role in a company, be it a startup or “traditional business”, or perhaps even *a* role, you are commenting as your professional self. Always. However many disclaimers of “these are my own thoughts” you add, your commentary will follow you.

It pays to be mindful of what you are writing. When you write publicly or comment about events in public, it *does* matter what others think about you. In fact, that’s even the primary thing that matters in PR.

As I am writing this, the past few weeks have been filled with a lot of difficult decisions, meetings and events. Either one of these would put stress and wear on you, but added up together your mental energy is drained quicker than you think.

This had me reflecting on the past weeks events and on that topic, on being a director or business owner. One of the things you sign up for is the doing the difficult things, regardless.

We all have this in our lives in varying degrees. There are difficult things we just must do. But running a business, these uncomfortable situations creep up on you a lot more often.

At the same time as I was finding myself wishing these things would just vanish, I found myself realizing once more that it is the (uncomfortable) downside of a manager’s life.

I firmly believe that ways to mitigate this is make sure you have enough time off to relax, and hang out with friends who recharge you. When you are forced to make difficult decisions for days on end, you really need a break from it.

Because truthfully, there is no choice. The difficult things must be done whether you want to or not. There is no escaping them.

Ever since I first heard it I have been pretty attached to what I know want to refer to as the “golden rule of communication” (which by the way is one of the hardest things we have do to as humans). The rule is simple: “Communication is what the listener does”.

Applying this rule to everyday life puts great demands on you. Traditionally, we force others to embrace the way we communicate. If they don’t understand it, too bad. Not our fault.

By embracing the “golden rule”, we instead realize that we should communicate in such a way that maximizes the possibilities for the reader to understand what we are saying.

In direct business and everyday communication, this means that we should be careful to phrase both email (written) and spoken conversation to work for the receiver.

To me, the reason for wanting to do this is simple. It maximizes understanding and reduces the risk of unnecessary misunderstandings. Especially with the written word, it is difficult to get your exact state of mind across. Therefore, it is in your best interest to make sure the reader interprets your writing as you intend to and not as he or she might otherwise read it.

Embracing the “golden rule” does indeed require that we accept a greater responsibility for “failed” communication. In most cases, this is both possible and reasonable. If we all do this, can you imagine how much easier and more efficient communication would be?

The other week I was chatting to a good friend of mine who shared an interesting story that illustrated a pet peeve of mine: That talking more about anything is better than being quiet.

Normally, I have found that in student settings in particular, it is thought that just saying something, regardless of what, makes you seem eager and get on the radar of the expert you are talking to. If you are talking to a person of “higher status” from an organization, you will often see people make up completely unnecessary things to say, just to speak.

I have experienced this many times myself in meetings both in general, and with young professionals with great ambitions. People sometimes just want to add things, to make sure they are seen and remembered. Even if this means almost completely just saying the same thing as another person said just before.

Why is this? Why are we taught that this is a good thing? One reason, I guess, is in part because we are in school always asked to say things ourselves to show that we know.

In a business setting. This is annoying. And it is useless. The more high level people you are talking to, the more busy they are. Being able to shortly and concisely sharing what you think is the real skill.

If you are asked if you have anything to add, it doesn’t mean that you should have or that you should feel forced to.

If there is one career skill that you should master if you are in meetings and you want high-level people in an organization to like you professionally, this is a good one. Practice expressing yourself concisely and to the point. Trust me, all of us will love you for it.