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The Secret Ingredient to Building High-Performance Teams

By Joey Havens

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As we sat elbow-to-elbow in the tiny fellowship hall of the little rural Methodist church, enjoying a delightful selection of home cooked food, Schaeffer (a team member on our healthcare valuation team) leaned over and said, “I bet there’s already a blog idea in your head about this experience.” He was right, but I must confess, at the time I was too busy enjoying the fresh cut skillet corn and the bacon enriched butter beans—an experience that was truly reliving the tradition of “Sunday Lunch” with family and friends.

At this Sunday Lunch, CeCe (my wife) and four HORNE team members were sharing time with a team member who was mourning the loss of her twin brother. As part of the southern tradition with mid-day funerals, family and friends are traditionally invited after the service to share a big home-cooked meal and an opportunity to visit together. I might add, the tables are always loaded with wonderful, sweet mouth-watering desserts and this was no exception with pies, cakes and cookies all laid out for our enjoyment. It’s a special time and should be treasured. 

We have a saying at HORNE that we are having “Sunday Lunch” anytime team members get together for food, snacks and some social time. It does not have to be lunch or dinner nor does it have to be Sunday—this is just our term for these special moments where we connect, celebrate and grow to know each other better. This connectivity, although informal, brings a level of belonging and spontaneous creativity that is impossible to plan or manufacture. 

Steve Jobs talked about the importance of these spontaneous face-to-face times and how critical they are to creativity and innovation. Google has used the power of this social sensitivity or connection to build stronger, more innovative teams. Lunch rooms, food service and the timing of breaks at Google are all planned to provide the maximum opportunity for these informal connections. Maybe this is why IBM and Yahoo have brought team members back into the office to work. 

In his book, Humans Are Underrated, Geoff Colvin stresses the research into high-performance teams that demonstrated social connectedness was a bigger factor for team performance than IQ. In fact, having the highest IQ on your team was worthless when measured in overall team performance. 

So as I put my plastic fork down on my Styrofoam plate (which was empty just like Mom taught me), I thought about how special our Sunday Lunches are. So with the full disclaimer that without strong self-discipline this can be hazardous to your calorie intake, I will pose a question for us to ponder. Are we having enough spontaneous Sunday Lunch experiences to make a difference for our future? Are we being intentional enough to provide opportunities for our teams to bond in a way that leads to higher performance? Best wishes for your next Sunday Lunch experience!