By Kathleen E. Murphy
It might seem obvious as a relationship building tool, but have you taken full advantage of getting to know one of your colleagues, or perhaps your boss or team better via a cup of joe or soup? When I ask people how often they make plans to go out to lunch or coffee with others they work with, I am always surprised by how few people are doing this. Or, at least not on a regular basis. Personally, I have experienced incredible transformations in terms of the relationship I had post my coffee and lunch interactions with people I have gone out with.
As a matter of fact, there was one time when I asked a colleague out to lunch simply to see why they were acting so passively aggressively towards me. Some of my other colleagues thought I was crazy for investing any time or energy in the relationship with this passive aggressive individual. However, the outcome from just one lunch with this person turned them from being a nightmare to work with, to being one of my biggest supporters, and who post our lunch experience, worked collaboratively with me from that point on. What made the difference from having lunch with this person? It was actually pretty simple. This person did not fully understand the work I was asking him to do, and he thought it was a waste of his time to be doing the work. What he did not realize was that the work he was doing was enormously helpful to me and understanding the analysis he produced. When he realized his work was perceived as being a valuable contribution to the business, his passive aggressive behavior evaporated, and he turned into a nice person to work with. We continued to have lunch, and actually have kept in touch since we stopped working together.
The example I have given you was not in fact an anomaly, and I have been able to repeat similar results with almost 100% of the people I have spent time with. This simple exercise is absolutely applicable to any person in an organization you are working with. All you have to do is ask them out for coffee or lunch. Here are some questions you can use to have similar results I have experienced.
- Start by asking them if they like to travel?
- If they have not done much traveling, ask them about what are three places in the world they would like to visit someday.
- Ask them to tell you if they have any pets.
- Ask them to share with you if they have any favorite charities.
- Ask them how they picked the career they are in?
- Would they recommend their career choice to others?
- What would they say is their “super power”, and how do they use it on a regular basis?
- Do they enjoy learning about topics unrelated to their profession, or do they invest their free time learning more about topics related to how to advance in their current role?
- Who inspires them?
- Basically, get them talking about themselves, and you will be amazed by the fact they might not reciprocate and ask you anything about yourself.
If the conversation goes the way I predict it will; and I have years of experience with coffee and lunch outings, by the end of your time together, you will have “planted-the-seeds” to develop an entirely different relationship with the person you spent time with. Now, the next step in this process is to make a list of the people you need to start queuing up coffee and lunch experiences with. You can either invite them informally by talking to them and agreeing upon a date and time to get together, or you can send them an email invitation asking them when (not if) you can “treat them” to coffee or lunch.
The more experiences you have with going out for coffee and lunch with the people on your “list”, the more opportunities you will have to expand your network, be considered an influencer, and in general take your career in a direction I promise you would not be headed in without doing this. So, what are you waiting for? Start putting your list together and sending out your invitations today. Doing so will open up a whole new world of opportunities for you on your professional journey, and it is never too early or late to do this.
Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me Too. Market Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at firstname.lastname@example.org.