Food and fun helps person-centred teams thrive

The last two teams I’ve been a part of have really taught me something about being in a supportive team.

The first, Choices in Community Living was in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  When I first arrived at the office, I was told that every day at 12 o’clock, we would meet and have lunch together.  My first reaction was “You’ve got to be kidding!  My lunch is my time and I want to spend it the way I want to.”  However, when we all sat round the table together, I quickly realised that it really was a time of bonding and getting to know each other outside of the usual work chat and we became a very tight knit group. Some of our group were on various stages of diets who brought in the healthy salads and raw vegetables, whilst others were comparing the various differences in takeaway and home-made meals, such as Mexican, Ukrainian, Indian etc. as we had team members from a variety of cultures.  We always shared what we brought to the table which was part of the fun.  Inevitably there were times when one of us was having a hard time in our personal lives, and this was also a time when we could really count on getting support.  When I look back, if I had not gone along with this requirement to share lunch, I would have missed something very special. In the same team, on a Friday afternoon, our Director, Nicole, would sometimes spontaneously announce that we were to turn off our computers as we were going to take a few hours out of the office to go to a local Escape Room for some fun.  She didn’t say this was for team building, but inevitably the experience meant we had to work collaboratively to crack the codes and work out the mystery.  It also involved listening to each other and sometimes letting go of control!  We would sometimes take an afternoon and go shopping together and have lunch out, paid for by the Company.  You learn a lot about people when shopping together, whether it’s in a shoe shop or a book shop.

At Meaningful Care Matters, there is a similar ethos.  Food is an important part of our Directors, Peter and Amanda’s way of showing they care.  They made quantities of home-made jams, pickles and Christmas cakes (with a family recipe) to give us for Christmas.   When we go for Team Meetings, there is always a memorable spread of delicious food.  When I have been ill, I’ve had many messages of kind support from everyone, including the offer by Peter and Amanda of sending a cleaner or some grocery shopping to help when I recently had Covid-19.  The ‘checking in’ texts meant a lot to me during this time, as it felt very genuine and was coming from place of friendship, not just a sense of ‘duty’ as a manager.

In both these teams, it has helped my commitment and sense of belonging to know I am appreciated and valued as an individual.   I have made some long-lasting friendships as a result of these experiences which have transcended the workplace.

As a leader, the learning is:

Willingness to go above and beyond to show your team members you care about them can make a big difference to morale and motivation.

As a colleague:

Being given these opportunities to get to know each other better deepens connections and creates more person-centred teams.

What will you do next to show someone in your team you care?

NANCY CUNNINGHAM
Consultant & Trainer
MCM
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