Do you dread attending meetings?
Do the rest of your co-workers feel the same way?
Do most of your workplace’s meetings start late because you are waiting for everyone to show up?
I discovered the cure.
Nothing gets people’s attention in the office more than food. If there are donuts or bagels in the break area, that is where you will find everyone gathering. If the smell of homemade food is wafting through the office, people seem to come out of the woodwork.
Food makes us feel good. If you think about every big life event or every holiday, food is an important part of it. Food creates comradery.
That is why I like using it to lure people to meetings.
For morning meetings there is the standard lure of donuts, muffins and bagels. But don’t forget about homemade muffins or banana bread with fresh fruit. Do that a few times and that guy you’ve been trying to get to attend a meeting so you can discuss an issue suddenly shows up.
I hate staff meetings. They are so freaking boring and a huge waste of time. People invent crises just so they don’t have to attend them. Issues go unresolved because everyone who needs to address it are never at the meeting at the same time. It is frustrating!
My cure to that was to hold staff meetings at lunchtime – and provide lunch. At one of my workplaces we broke into 4 different groups that rotated responsibility for providing lunch. After a few weeks of the regular pizza, fried chicken and deli sandwiches, people started bringing in homemade food. (The company reimbursed them for the cost of the groceries.) It made all the difference.
We spent the first half hour or so eating and talking. (People started showing up early.) As a manager that is when you find out what is really going on and what the real issues are. That whole formal agenda-driven meeting is replaced with informal and productive conversation.
For the second half hour, we addressed a project problem or a workplace process that wasn’t working. With everyone in a good mood from eating we had great collaboration and cooperation to fix the issue within 30 – 45 minutes. It is amazing what a team can achieve when everyone is in the right mood.
We became the company incubator of solutions. Our solutions spread throughout the company. We spent less than $125 per week on food and saved the company hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Our meetings were also super-cheap way to provide relevant professional development for everyone. Our performance soared.
I discovered that food is great not just for getting people to attend a meeting, but also for crashing a meeting you weren’t invited to.
When management has a meeting you want in on, bring them some homemade muffins, bread or whatever you make to get your foot in the door. Start up a conversation about the meeting topic and invite yourself to stay. I crashed a Saturday morning meeting with homemade banana bread and got on the project of my dreams. It works – but you have to bring homemade food. Store-bought is “too canned” and just not as effective. I’ve had male co-workers try to copy my technique with store-bought. It didn’t work. (I snickered.)
Being a woman does have its advantages – especially if there are important out of town visitors.
For a lot of these meetings lunch is brought in. On those occasions I was never afraid to play “Hostess with the Mostest.” I knew what time lunch was being delivered and I was at the door to greet it. I escorted the food to the conference room and took my time directing the set up. As the “hostess” it was my duty to graciously greet our guests and make sure they were well-fed and taken care of.
But I was working an angle.
You see, in these meeting there is always a man whose job it is to introduce people to each other and start conversations. Typically he is the first one to approach the food. I would introduce myself and make it clear that I was not the admin, PR or marketing person – I had a job directly involved in the meeting topic. This man then introduced me to the other guests and I was invited to join them for lunch. After all, that is the courteous and professional way to thank me for being a courteous and professional hostess.
Sometimes I would get invited to stay for the rest of the meeting. Either way, I made connections but more importantly, I gathered “intelligence” I could later use.
Meanwhile my male co-workers were walking back and forth up and down the hall trying to figure out how to get into the room.
Never underestimate the power of food. Use it. Leverage it.
Today many women are afraid to be associated with food – homemade or store-bought – because they fear being cast into the realm of domesticity. All I can say is “Get over it.” You may be surprised how many of your male colleagues like to talk about the food they love to cook.
Remember: Food is universal bonding. So, if you can use food to give yourself an advantage, then do it. After all, your male-colleagues aren’t about to stop talking about sports or cars because it gives them an advantage over you.
Empowered Women Use the Amazing Power of Food to Their Advantage
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