Leadership Strategy – Who are you having for lunch?

Lets make a list of what most midmarket executives do for lunch each day.


  • Run down the street and grab a quick sandwich
  • Drop off their clothes at the cleaners
  • Catch up on email
  • Pour over a proposal that is due to go out at 4pm
  • Review sales forecasts
  • Fill out their NCAA brackets
  • Meet with a client
  • Meet with the accounting firm to discuss the last months books
  • Trade in your Treo for a Blackberry
  • Shop for the three gifts you were supposed to buy last week
  • Find out why project ‘Avitar’ is behind schedule …

We all get caught up in life’s fire drill activities that are certainly urgent, but rarely that important.

A biological given is that we all have to eat.  Well, if you are like me, you miss a meal from time to time, but that is missing the point.  Just as everyone needs nourishment during the day, every midmarket exec needs to find more ways to evangelize the vision as well as continue to take the pulse of the organization. Lets put the two together and see what we come up with.

Make a list of your next generation of leaders.  You know, the superstars that work for the people that work for you.  Not your direct reports;  I’m guessing you spend enough time with them.  Focus on the second level of your organization.  The program managers building your next new product are on the list.  So are the regional managers that rarely make it to the home office.  Don’t forget the recruiter or the sales rep or the accounts payable manager that may not really understand the purpose of the company.


Once you’ve made your list, review the list with your direct reports and let them know that you are going to be scheduling one-over-one lunches.  Commit to twice a week lunches for the next 6 months.  Do your homework before you meet with them.  Find out what they do each day, what they do well, where they went to college and details of their family life.  Be prepared to give your best elevator speech but more importantly, be prepared to listen.

These sessions are called One-over-one’s because you are skipping a level in the organization. You are “jumping over” your direct reports.  You are making a very conscience effort to personally promote the mission, vision and purpose of the organization and your are making a commitment to listening to the folks in the trenches.


A few rules to following when setting up One-over-one’s.

  • Don’t surprise your direct reports (their bosses)
  • Never – ok rarely – miss a scheduled meeting
  • Understand what each person does before you meet
  • Prepare a few open ended questions
  • Listen
  • Commit to one or two things and always follow-up
  • Follow-up with your direct reports (their supervisors) on any action items
  • Commit to One-over-one’s for the rest of your career
  • Did I mention …. Listen?

So now you may be asking what this has to do with building business value.  I can absolutely guarantee that you are going to be amazed at what you did not know. You can probably come up with more but here are:

Five Benefits for Creating a “One-over-one” Program:

  • You will have a great opportunity to motivate and inspire people that impact your company’s enterprise value
  • Next generation leaders will get to know you and your passion for the business
  • Opportunities for cost saving and revenue generation will be brought to your doorstep
  • Retention will increase because your junior leaders will see the connection between what they do and the performance of the company
  • Diverse work groups will align behind your vision for the company

Give it a try … One-Over-One’s might seem like a huge time commitment but if you build them into your lunch schedule you are actually accomplishing two things at once.  Nourish your body at lunch and nourish your company with One-over-one’s.

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