How leaders discover new ideas in their lunch breaks

A great way, I learned whilst at Alliance Boots, to develop connection, belonging and an employees self worth in a company’s culture is for the MD (Managing Director) to have lunch with small groups of cross-functional employees on a regular basis.

The spirit of this MD Lunch program is to spend an hour with the MD talking about everyone’s experiences at the company, helping everyone get to know one another, and helping everyone see the MD is ‘one of us’.

How to implement it:

  • Determine how often the MD wants to have these lunches… monthly is ideal.
  • Have five to six people total (including the MD) for one hour or so.

Process:

The tone and format of the MD Lunch is key. You’ll want to create enough structure so everyone gets a chance to speak while keeping a warm and informal tone. Here’s a format I recommend:

  • Expectation setting: Open forum, OK to ask any question, the MD will answer what he can, “the spirit of our lunch is to hear your experience here, learn what is working and what we can do better, hear any ideas/insights of yours, I’ll jot them down to ensure I remember” (it’s best to send this format in advance so employees have a chance to prepare their thoughts)
  • Welcome: “Thanks for being part of company, you make a difference, we’re doing great things together”
  • Launch: MD does personal and professional check in for couple minutes (a key event that’s happening in their personal life and one in professional too. For example: Personal: I’m really enjoying my kids right now—they’re at the age where they’re asking great questions. Professional: I’ve realised that in all our growth we’ve missed some the of people development things we could’ve been doing.) Two to three minutes each person, after the MD. Then simply move around the group in clockwise fashion.
  • Feedback: Now the MD goes around each person asking them to answer “What’s Working” and “What I’d Like To See More Of.”
  • Gather all ideas/insights/info as people talk, with the MD recapping them so everyone knows they have been heard.
  • Closing: “Thanks for sharing a bit about yourself, your life, your ideas for how we can create an even more successful company. Your ideas are awesome and inspire me. I’m so glad you’re a member of our company. Together we’re doing great things. Thanks again.”
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