We were sitting together over lunch, exploring why the senior team was not working well as a team, when I asked him the following question: “So, when I am not visiting from out of town, who do you turn to for perspective on these issues?”
He stopped eating and turned to me, saying “What do you mean?”
“Well,” I responded, “who are the people you turn to for assistance when you struggle?”
“Mostly myself,” he replied.
“That works to a point,” I explained, “but sometimes we do not always see things clearly. Remember the old adage, ‘the fish will never discover the ocean.’ You need a circle of people who will help you ‘discover the ocean’, for lack of a better metaphor.”
“Interesting. Do you have people who do this for you?”
“Definitely. I call them my Kitchen Table Cabinet. They are a collection of people from different backgrounds with whom I have breakfast, coffee, lunch, or dinner with on a regular basis. They help me see the bigger picture. They ask me questions that I am not asking myself. They ask me questions about things I am not even thinking about at this time period. They share insights and lessons learned. They share. I share. We explore, and as a result, I am able to do this work better. So, who should be a part of your Kitchen Table Cabinet?”
What followed was a 30 minute exploration into who are the key people in his life who he could turn to for insights and perspectives. I encouraged him to schedule time with these people on a regular basis.
Six months later, when I was back in town, to facilitate a strategic review, he gathered this small group of people around a table at the same restaurant where I had asked him the question. He shared what he needed from the group and how often he would like us to gather. Everyone listened respectfully and agreed to support him through his current challenges.
While driving me back to the hotel where I was staying overnight, he paused at a red light and said, “That was a good beginning. I am glad I gathered everyone together. Now my challenge is two fold. First, I need to stay in touch with all of you on a regular basis. Second, I need to expand that circle. They are like a corporate board where one is constantly recruiting new members given the changes in the external strategic landscape.”
As the light turned green, I smiled and said, “Yes. You got it.”
We drove in silence for about a mile and then he said, “Thanks. That was a good question six months ago.”
“My pleasure,” I responded. “It’s why I am part of your Kitchen Table Cabinet.”
This week, figure out who should be a part of your Kitchen Table Cabinet. And then, visit with each of them on a regular. Building and maintaining perspective is very important in the world of leadership given all that is happening in the big world at this time period.