A terrific way to foster connection and safety, belonging, and mattering in your culture is for the CEO to have lunch with small groups of cross-functional employees on a regular basis.
The spirit of this CEO Lunch program is to spend an hour with the CEO talking about everyone’s experiences at the company, helping everyone get to know one another, and helping everyone see the humanity of the CEO.
Here’s a basic draft game plan:
• Determine how often the CEO wants to have these lunches… monthly is ideal. Note if the company has thousands of employees you’ll want to enroll additional senior executives to host lunches too.
• Have five to six people total (including the CEO) for one hour or so.
The tone and format of the CEO Lunch is key. You’ll want to create enough structure so everyone gets a chance to speak while keeping a warm and informal tone. Here’s a format my clients love:
• Expectation setting: Open forum, OK to ask any question, the CEO will answer what he/she can, “the spirit of our lunch is to hear your experience here, learn what is working and what we can do better, hear any ideas/insights of yours, I’ll jot them down to ensure I remember” (it’s best to send this format in advance so employees have a chance to prepare their thoughts)
• Welcome: “Thanks for being part of tribe, you make a difference, we’re doing great things together”
• Launch: CEO does personal and professional check in for couple minutes (a key event that’s happening in their personal life and one in professional too). (Example: Personal: I’m really enjoying my kids right now—they’re at the age where they’re asking cool questions. Also I’m feeling concerned about my aging mom. I realize I’ve not wanted to deal with this and now need to look into how to help her golden years be the most fulfilling possible. Professional: So much is going right that I have to pinch myself some days! It’s a very exciting time! Also, though, I’ve realized that in all our growth we’ve missed some the of people development things we could’ve been doing—so I am diving in here to help us get caught up.) Two to three minutes each person, after the CEO simply move around the group in clockwise fashion.
• Feedback Frame: Now go around with each person answering “What’s Working” and “What I’d Like To See More Of.”
• Gather all ideas/insights/info as people talk (the CEO may want to have his/her assistant take notes) and the CEO recaps them so all know they were heard.
• Closing: “Thanks for sharing a bit about yourself, your life, your ideas for how we can create an even cooler company. Your ideas are awesome and inspire me. I’m so glad you’re a member of our tribe. Together we’re doing great things. Thanks again.”
My clients find that the increased connection that comes from these lunches (and they can even be coffee breaks if that makes them easier to schedule) often results in: unsung heroes and high potential team members being “discovered”, new innovative ideas being aired, problems being uncovered and improvements to morale.
See how they work for you!