A seat at the table: Here's how to build a stronger team culture

by Brian Nordli
September 14, 2018
Employees eating together at lunch
Image via Shutterstock

 

When it comes to team bonding, nothing beats the lunch table.

It’s there, between bites of roast beef or caesar salad, where work takes a back seat and natural connections are forged. The result, aside from sated appetites, is a happier, more collaborative staff.

EAT Club general manager Cole Dixon has seen this play out time and again in his company and at others. It’s one of several activities he’s found to help break down silos and generate social capital, which encourages employees to work together rather than compete for credit.

“It’s a genuine point of focus for me in terms of the culture I look to perpetuate in the office I lead,” Dixon said. “In order to have that kind of environment, you have to promote collaboration and everybody needs to be heading toward the same ‘North Star’ goal.”

That collaborative spirit makes the difference between winning or losing an account and hitting or missing goals. But it takes more than just food.

Dixon dished on four ways to help transform colleagues into a unified super team.

 

 

1. Plan activities outside of work

Nothing spices up the work week and creates cohesion like a team outing. Whether it’s a scheduled bi-weekly happy hour at a local bar, a companywide beach excursion or an individual-led hiking trip, those escapes from the office give people a break, plus the chance to get to know each other, Dixon said.

“Sometimes, it takes a new environment to connect with a person you maybe wouldn’t have connected within the office,” Dixon said. Those genuine relationships lead to exchanging ideas and collaboration. Meanwhile, it allows leaders to show that they are invested in the team and enjoy spending time with them.  

 

2. Eat Together

It’s clear that those who eat together, stay together. But why is that? Dixon suggests that what a person chooses to eat can say a lot about their tastes, preferences and personality. Those decisions form a natural entry point for conversations between coworkers, Dixon said.

Plus, communal lunches provide a natural break from the computer screen and reinforce personal connections. The result — a more collaborative, productive team.

 

3. Create cross-functional task forces

One way to break down silos and encourage cross-collaboration is to establish a network of internally focused committees built with members from different teams. At EAT Club, employees can volunteer to be on committees dedicated to things like culture, company values and performance review feedback, Dixon said.

As long as teams are volunteer-driven, it fosters collaboration and reinforces the message that all voices are heard.

“When you have other voices involved, you get more of the support and buy-in you need to effectively drive important internal needs and processes,” Dixon said.  

Ultimately, employees come to understand that cross-collaboration is valued and that they can make a difference beyond their defined roles.

 

4. All eyes on the prize

While lunches, outings and committees are great, they won’t mean much if the company isn’t aligned on a unified goal. In this case, there’s no such thing as over-communication, Dixon said. Instead, the more consistent goal reinforcement, the better.

“If everyone knows your goal is to get three accounts by the end of the quarter, and you’re making it reinforcing that message with catchy hashtags and messages,” Dixon said, “then in the 11th hour, everyone will hustle to hit that goal.”

Dixon makes the goal a constant conversation topic with his team leads, whom he then relies on to translate it to their respective teams. Mentioning the goal often, making jokes about it, writing the goal on the wall or inserting gifs to highlight it in email keep team goals top of mind and in focus.

For longer-term, higher-level goals, he’ll mention them in all hands and as a backdrop in other meetings. That transparency and repetition transforms the goals into a shared vision and promotes accountability across all levels.

EAT Club is a food tech company that specializes in providing employer-sponsored lunch-as-a-benefit (LaaB) that satisfies individuals to power teams.

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