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Time for lunch

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Until 1987, the business lunch was a very normal, and highly effective way for people to get to know each other, discuss ideas and opportunities, and to do deals. But then came Wall Street and the immortal line delivered by Michael Douglas’ character Gordon Gekko, “lunch is for wimps”.

Simultaneously it became fashionable to shorten meetings, have fixed agendas with set times against each item, one side of A4 reporting and other initiatives that championed efficiency. But, as with many changes, there are unintended consequences and in this instance, the drive to be ever more efficient led, I believe, to a reduction in effectiveness.

I remember Stephen Covey describing the difference between efficiency and effectiveness using the clock and compass as his metaphor. As part of his presentation he said something that has stayed with me ever since, “where you’re headed is far more important than how fast you’re going” and I feel this concept needs to be reintroduced into the culture of many businesses.

Efficiency is driven by time which is what causes something to become urgent, whereas effectiveness is driven by importance. Of course important things can become urgent, particularly if they’ve been neglected or not dealt with early enough, but the root cause of the current glorification of busyness and consequential stress that many experience is the drug of urgency that causes too many things to appear much more important than they really are.

All meaningful long term relationships require investment, particularly of time, and as I discovered over two lunches last week, this “inefficient” way of communicating can yield surprising dividends of the kind that would never have happened if only 10, 20 or 30 minutes had been allocated.

Here’s an exercise to try out: write down the names of 10 key people in your life and give each relationship a score from 0-10 based on where you feel things are right now. Then consider the 5-7’s and ask yourself when was the last time you spent some meaningful time with them? (by the way, meaningful isn’t being in the same room watching TV or being distracted by your mobile). My guess is that in many instances you’ll see it was some time ago. Next create a block of time to spend with them, it doesn’t have to be a lunch it could be a long walk or some other activity that allows for proper interaction, but a lunch is my personal favourite, and watch that score rise to 8,9 or even a 10.


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