Extraordinary Team Blog

Potluck Lunches at the Office Help Bring Team Together

Posted by Kristin Arnold on December 15, 2009

Potlucks have been a team-building mainstay for decades and what better time than during the holidays.  A simple activity to orchestrate, potlucks are an occasion to bring food and people together in an informal atmosphere, usually around lunchtime.  Potlucks are especially popular in office settings, (but any work environment will do) when you want to bring together the team, even if they work on different shifts or schedules.  Potlucks are usually organized by team members rather than the team leader.

I suggest sharing these general guidelines for office potluck lunches:

Pick a Day.  Don’t wait until the last minute.  Schedule the potluck at least three days in advance, a full week before is even better!

Have a Theme.  What would otherwise be chaos becomes organized around themes.  For example, a Christmas Holiday potluck is more fun than a boring, regularly scheduled potluck.  People will hook into something fun, unique and creative.

Strike a Balance.  While sign-up sheets are helpful (especially if everyone typically brings potato chips), balance the need for structure with others’ need for spontaneity.  Many teams post a sign-up sheet with categories and people adjust their contributions by noting what “holes” in the menu need to be filled.  Regardless, do what works for your particular culture, ensuring that people enjoy the process rather than resenting it.

Dish It Out.  Let people bring what they want to bring, preferably homemade.  Here’s the opportunity to try out that new recipe or bring in your favorite dish.  Let people be creative and don’t slam them for trying something new!  (By the way, have you ever noticed that most people eat their own food at potlucks?)

Be Gracious.  Recognize that not everyone can cook or has the time to bring a homemade casserole.  Prepared foods are fine as long as they don’t bring in the same thing time after time and/or bring in gacky chow you wouldn’t even feed to your dog.  Then again, we all know some people who are simply food-impaired; let them bring the paper products or soft drinks.

Drift Away.  Allow team members to participate within a window of time, usually an hour or so.  This allows people to drift in and out, depending on their schedules for the day.  No need to stay the entire time, but feel free to come back to help clean up!

Enlist Others.  Success is directly proportional to the number of people involved and energized in creating a festive event.  From picking the date, theme and dishes, make it a team effort and let others coordinate the activity as much as possible.

If you are looking for an outside-the-box idea for promoting teamwork, check out what Steve Priest, Senior Vice President of DaVita Inc., is doing.

Question:  What is the most outside-the-box idea you have had for building teamwork?

To book Kristin to speak or view her products go to www.ExtraordinaryTeam.com