What a Family Dinner Can Teach You About Team Building

Sep 18, 2014, Written by Sue Miley


I was thinking about an upcoming planning retreat for a client and what it would look like if we had a great team-building experience.  You know, what a win would look like.

And then it hit me.  It would look like our family dinners.

Family Dinners Keep the Connection Strong

I try to have family dinner most nights.  Family dinner to us means that whether I cook, we go out, or we pick up, we all eat together at a fully set table without tv or other distraction.

Because cooking is one of my only domestic skills, I do try to make dinner myself most nights.  It is an extra enticement to get everyone home and together.

Dinner is our connection hub.  It is when we:

  • Hear what is going well or not so well in the lives of our kids and each other.
  • Tell stories about the significant events going on.
  • Coordinate our schedules for upcoming events, responsibilities, and plans.
  • See who needs to get what done – the day before the housekeeper comes it is a mad rush for everyone to get their stuff picked up or it may disappear for life.  And this is the critical time to get priority laundry room usage assigned.
  • Set eyes on each other to see who is sleeping enough, happy enough, and engaged enough.  You can tell a lot about how someone is doing just by setting eyes on them and spending a few minutes together.
  • And, most important, it is the time where there is just easy going banter, bonding, and conversation happening.  It is the time that reminds us we are a family, made of the same cloth, on the same team, and for each other.

What does any of this have to do with business? 

If the team building exercises go well, and the team that has been built and working together over the past years is a cohesive team, then at the planning meeting we should see:

  • A team that openly shares their wins and losses from the past year with trust knowing that everyone around the table is for them and has their back.
  • Team members bringing up the memorable events of the year and the highlights of the company.
  • We would have input from everyone regarding goals for the coming year, who needed to do what by when.
  • We would agree to and set milestones and deadlines for significant tasks and events.
  • We would all be together in a room at the same time and see how everyone is doing.  Who is tired and needs help?  Who is on fire and ready to take on new challenges?  How is the team?  How is the energy?
  • And most importantly, there will be a personal buzz.  People catching up on each others’ families, key events, sharing stories, etc.  Yes, the facilitator (me) may even have to interrupt to get everyone back on track to the purpose that we are meeting.

We spend a lot of time at work.  Our team is a family.  Our teams need time to gather, break bread, and share the same space.

Time Together Has Always Been The Glue For Families and Teams

One of the most famous biblical stories is the Last Supper.  It was about Jesus being together with his disciples, sharing openly His concerns, setting up and planning for what was ahead.  They were together.

It is one of the most famous stories, but also one of many where Jesus uses a meal to gather people, bring them to Him, to have people find a common bond, and many times, to work together to go forth and share the gospel.

Family dinner, team bonding, face-to-face time for planning and fellowship, is important to families.  If you aren’t having family dinner, why not try it this week?

See if there is a positive change in your family dynamics.

Are you having these same types of opportunities to gather your team together?

If not, then your team is missing these same benefits.  You may have individuals working for the same company, but do you have individuals working together, unified with the best interest of the company in mind, having fun working with people they care about, on work they feel is important, with the security of knowing that the people on their team care about them also and share a deep mutual trust that comes from looking across the table into someone’s eyes and seeing the message “I’ve got your back.”

If you aren’t having family dinner type gatherings with your team, I highly recommend you try it this month and see the change in the team dynamics!  I guarantee it will bring the team closer together, improve planning and preparation, and provide a safety net for those who may need it at this time.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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