Lately I’ve been reminiscing about the simple joy of sharing coffee with my co-workers.
In an alternate space and time continuum, my morning office ritual included a drive-by coffee-kidnapping. With over 500 staff, I struggled to actually see the individual lives hidden beneath layers of management and laminated org charts. My spontaneous solution was a random shoulder-tap — and a rapid dash across the street to share 15 minutes and a coffee with someone I neither parked beside nor shared a dotted line with.
Sometimes my hostage and I chatted about work, but more often I just listened . . . listened to family stories, personal challenges and quiet aspirations. Most conversations flowed easily in the casual hum of the local cafe. Some chats were more guarded, or, even awkward. But gradually those spreadsheets of departments and divisions and committees and teams became living beings again.
Litres of lattes later, I realized that what happened at the wobbly tabletop in the coffee shop was more connected to organizational outcomes than what went down around the mahogany oval in the boardroom. Without the PowerPoints and padded leather chairs.
In 2017, Jack Ma (of tech juggernaut Alibaba) rocked the business world with his claim that the most important attribute for successful leadership in our future world of work is LQ (Love Quotient). He went on to say that no matter how smart machines are becoming, the world’s biggest and most pressing problems will be solved by smart humans with the capacity for compassion, understanding and, love.
The best teams I know come together in the spirit of optimism to help build the world we imagine. They co-create an open ecosystem of intellect and safety, where individual strengths support the collective whole. Their passion is to create a community that takes care of each other and works together to solve the unsolvable. And, their days are filled with 12oz moments of listening, laughter and love with warm and wonderful people they know by name.
Perhaps I’m romanticizing the past. Most definitely I’m glossing over the invisible power dynamic that actually made my coffee-kidnaps possible. However, I have learned <surprise> that coffee matters. Not in a decaf or dalgona kind of way, but in the incremental spaces we hold to serve one another, express mutual care and invoke belonging.
One. Drip. @ A. Time.