According to Tom Peters, lunch is sacred. As he sees it, throughout the year we have “225 golden-never-to-be-repeated opportunities” to meet new people, learn new things, and build and nurture relationships inside and outside our organizations.
Okay, I like lunch as much as the next person. I fill my shared lunch hours with friends and colleagues whenever I can. But I’ve never thought of it as sacred. What gives?
In a tweet about making your lunches count, Tom replied, “Most of us, including me, score between ‘bad’ and ‘pathetic.’ So much easier to lunch with pals.”
It’s all about recruiting allies to your cause. When it comes to our ability to get things done in our organizations, relationships are key.
Writes Peters, “Literally 80% of your time should be spent recruiting and developing allies. You are aiming to accomplish something which flies in the face of current practice. You have ‘enemies’ whose applecart you will upset. Even some senior enemies.” And that’s why allies, built carefully, painstakingly, and authentically through relationships, are so important. For what it’s worth, Peters offers up this sub-nugget of advice: Only idiots spend time on enemies.
Don’t just take Tom’s word for it. In Great By Choice, Jim Collins spends much of the book exploring the role of luck on a series of “10X” companies and leaders. What he learned is that the amount of good luck and back luck experienced by the 10X organizations versus their comparable peer company was no different. What was different was the return on luck achieved by the 10X companies. Collins' research showed there to be three components of a high return on luck, with the third being a return on relationships:
The best way to find a strong current of good luck is to swim with great people and build deep and enduring relationships with people for whom you’d risk your life and who’d risk their lives for you.
Peters says our goal shouldn’t be to go head-on-head with those who disagree with us. He writes, “Your goal is to patiently surround the buggers with your merry band of accomplished believers. Believers you have dug out of the far corners of the organization and who have hopped on board with relish. Believers who have run experiments on the new approach and improved and improved the new way of doing things.”
How do you get such a posse together? You ask a colleague you don’t know well out for coffee. You walk around the office and strike up a conversation. And you go to lunch! As Tom often says, building relationships – discovering and developing allies to be more precise – takes “oodles and oodles” of time. And there is no better way to do this then over a meal.
What’s The Risk?
“Time and again it’s the folks who have a wide and deep network three levels ‘down’ in the organization who perform miracles, seemingly without raising a sweat. And the strength and ubiquity and reliability of that network is a function of time invested,” writes Peters in a blog post.
They make it look easy because of their patient approach to building long-term relationships throughout the entire organization. Upon closer inspection you’ll likely find they invested in a lot of lunches, public praise for others, and lent a helping hand or two when it mattered the most.
Peters sums it up as only he can: “Whoever invests the most clock time on relationship building and develops the broadest and deepest network wins.”
It’s time to rethink lunch. Ask out new people from your organization. Get together with a manager from another department. Maybe meet up with a supplier or even a competitor. Just don’t miss out on those 225 “sacred at bats”!