Saturday, August 24, 2019

Never Eat Lunch Alone

I recently came across a terrific essay by Assurant CEO Alan Colberg on LinkedIn, published two weeks ago. In the article, Colberg reflects on what he learned during three major events at which he appeared along with other top executives in a series of panel discussions and speeches. One key lesson he derived from these sessions: ask good questions that challenge the status quo and the conventional wisdom in your company and/or industry. He writes:

One of the most profound, yet simple suggestions discussed across each event was about the importance of asking the right questions. Imperative to future success is not solely dependent on having the best products or services. Indeed, it starts with asking the right questions and viewing those through a “consumer” lens – again, being attuned to the changing needs of customers and delivering on that exceptional customer experience. Someone at the CNBC Evolve event asked, “why isn’t buying enterprise software as easy as buying a book on Amazon?.” This is an important question every organization -- whether a global B2B company, a small technology start-up –- must ask if it’s serious about changing and improving the consumer experience.

Even better, I loved his advice for his employees.  He has adopted the mantra - "never eat lunch alone" - at Assurant.   He explains:  

Finally, attending these events reminded me yet again of how important it is for all of us to take some time to think externally and engage with people. I often advise my employees to “never have lunch alone.” We learn so much from one another through dialogue and interaction. I would encourage everyone at all levels to get out from behind your desk and think externally. Consider actions like reaching out to a colleague or friend elsewhere at your own company or at another organization – or visiting a website or store of one of your client partners – you never know how what you learn now will change the course of your future.

I love this mantra.  We often feel that pressure to eat at our desk, because we face a looming deadline or a lengthy to-do list.  However, we miss a huge opportunity when we isolate ourselves at our desks.  We forego an opportunity to connect with colleagues or perhaps customers.  So many terrific collaborations can emerge from conversations that begin casually and informally over lunch.  We can learn from others, and we can expose ourselves to different points of view.  We can learn about the work being done in other silos of the organization, and we can begin to break down the barriers among those silos.  "Never eat lunch alone."  I think that I'll embrace this mantra moving forward in my own work.  I hope you do as well. 

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