Why senior execs should buy their people lunch

 In Mindset

“Lunch with the CEO works because employees invited to a discussion with the CEO over lunch are being rewarded in much the same way as an “employee of the month” designation, but in a much more meaningful way.”

This is quote from a great article entitled Lunch with the CEO by F. John Reh. Here’s the link to the article:


They are many worthy points in the article including: “Most CEOs do a good job on the investor side and some do a good job from the supplier side. Few CEOs do enough to maintain good relations on the employee side.”

The comment of CEOs not doing enough on the employee side resonated with me. I observe CEOs who struggle with how to make a positive connection (eg. at a networking function or in a chance encounter) with junior team members.

However, if they do make a positive connection – even if short in duration – that connection will have many positive benefits. The benefits are listed below. (A caveat here: Though the below points may sound soft, together they can have a hard, compelling impact – in particular, point d.)

A genuine, positive connection from the CEO or senior executive:

a. will prompt the person to feel valued.

b. with prompt the person to perform better in their job role.

c. may prompt the person to tell his/her colleagues about the interaction, which will prompt those colleagues to do better work.

d. will increase the odds that the person will want to continue working in the organization (cutting down on hiring and retraining costs if the person ends his/her employment).

Now, all of the above points are fine but you might be asking for practical things that you, as a CEO/senior executive might talk about with a junior person. My overall suggestion it to aim to be interesTED versus being interesTING. This means that you have a genuine intention to to be interested to learn more about the person in their working life, and in their away from work life, versus listing off all the good things you and your organisation are doing.

Regarding questions you might ask a person about their work, here are three questions:

– Tell me one thing you really like about the company, and one thing that frustrates you about the company.

– Tell me what you do here that’s not in your job description that you think is really critical.

– Tell me something you think I don’t know, that you think I should know, that is important.

(the above questions come from the author and New York Times columnist Adam Bryant).

The ‘how to apply’ for this post: Consider setting up a ‘Lunch with the CEO’ programme in your organization. If you’re a CEO or senior executive, use the above suggestions and questions to make a positive connection with your junior team members.

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