The Art of Getting Together for a Meal

What are you doing for lunch?


That question resonated with me after I read a delightful
piece by Geraldine Fabrikant
in The New
York Times
about five friends who have been having lunch together in New
York City for twenty-five years. Through divorce, and death of one of the lunch
pals, the quintet has prevailed. No two guys have the same job; each comes from
a different field: advertising, media, journalism, film and medicine.


Such get togethers are not unique. My wife belongs to a once
a month dinner group of business women; and my good friend Chris Merlo meets
once a week for dinner with friends. The unifying theme is community; each of
the guys profiled and my wife, a health care executive, and Chris, a business
communication writer, enjoy being around people who share similar interests. In
years past, I had some regular associations with colleagues, but none
currently, and frankly I miss them.

First and foremost such mealtime gatherings are not about
networking per se. While work topics may of course arise, the point of getting
together is to advance your career. It is to socialize but not simply as
friends but as people who value good discussion mixed with their camaraderie.
Friends who come together regularly can be straight with each other, which is
sometimes not so easy in work or even family situations.

From a leadership point of view, it is an opportunity to recharge
yourself without going anywhere. You share ideas with friends and gain new
perspectives. And such gatherings can serve such a purpose. So it got me
thinking about what’s the secret of such groups? Five characteristics come to

Affinity. My late
father, a physician, formed a monthly dinner group with fellow doctors. Their
dinner topics, planned in advance, were not about medicine but about music and books.
Each like my dad was a man of culture and so they got together, in the style of
a French salon, to eat and discuss.

Commitment. Join
a group and you’d better show up. Of course you will not make all the
gatherings but if you say you will join in, do so. Be there. Once you join,
your participation is like spice in a stew, necessary; and when absent, it will
be missed.

Smarts. You want
to be around people who are bright, alive, and have strong opinions.. This
certainly hold true for my wife’s group. These are smart women who know how the
world works and eagerly share their insights and views with their colleagues.


Ego. You want to
be around people who have a good sense of themselves. The five profiled in the New York Times are such folks . Not
egotistical, but those who are comfortable in their own skins. Arrogance is the
sign of an over done ego, but confidence is a reflection of someone who has
accomplished something and has something to teach others.

Laughter. If you
are going to commit to eat with a group on a regular basis it has to be fun. My
friend Chris says his group, which is comprised of men chiefly from an arts background, enjoy each
others’ stories and jokes.

There is another vital component to such gatherings. It’s
something my friend Chris refers to as “companionship.” Guys or gals or both
getting together to share one another’s stories, good ones and bad, highlights
and low lights. It is the simple act of being together. Not quite family–no
real obligations–but friends getting together because they want to. Face to
face over a meal. No social media. Just social.

John Baldoni is an
internationally recognized leadership development consultant, executive coach,
author, and speaker. In 2010 Top Leadership Gurus named John one of the world’s
top 25 leadership experts. John’s new book is 
Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up
(Amacom 2009). Readers are welcome to visit John’s website,