I always thought it was a Pennsylvania thing—when we got together for a visit, we would all gather around the kitchen table. Home for the holidays? The central hub was the kitchen table. When my mother had a friend over for tea or coffee, it was at the kitchen table. When I arrived home from Washington, D.C. for a summer visit, my sisters, mother and I would gather at the kitchen table to catch up. People stopping by to visit or drop something off? We would always end up talking around the table. It seemed that our kitchen table was central to everything going on in the house and also filled with the latest news from around town.
Later in life, hosting parties at my home, I noticed that we tended to congregate around the kitchen counter at the start of an evening and later spend hours chatting around the dining room table following dinner. Was this a tradition carried forward or just a coincidence? What is it about tables that invites conversation?
This table phenomenon had me thinking about our conference table at work. Who sits where during our staff meetings? During a team meeting? Where do I sit in relation to a colleague versus an interviewee? Is there a method to this table arrangement? These thoughts had me thinking about table strategy in the workplace and how a simple tradition from my own home takes on even greater meaning in the office environment.
Think about your own office. Who gathers at your conference table? The people we bring to our table to conduct business, strategize the future or problem solve are key to our success. Good leaders will be intentional about bringing the best and brightest to the table. They make it a point to ensure that the innovators, thought leaders and those “coloring outside the lines” are at their table. Great leaders are not afraid to invite the naysayers to the table as well. These are the people you want at your table—those who bring their diverse perspectives and insights to your discussions. The colleagues you invite to your table make you a better leader and decision maker.
When you plan your table strategy, think about who will be thought-provoking and insightful. Invite colleagues who think differently than you—that combination will unlock greater ideas and innovation. Never underestimate the power of different perspectives. Like my mother’s kitchen table, your conference table can be the central hub for ingenuity and boldness. You have the power to make it so.
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Wendy Mann is the chief executive officer of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network and president of the CREW Network Foundation.