Social activities with colleagues outside of work hours might seem more obligatory than worthwhile, but for any company that wants to have a great workplace culture, they're critical. At Prezi, we have instigated "Dream Dinners" where I leave my CEO hat at home, and have a one on one (or sometimes two) dinner with my fellow Prezi people where we set out to talk about our hopes and dreams. Sounds too fluffy clouds with ponies? Well, I think, that's what's great about it.
Maria & Andres
My first dream dinner was with one of our many wonderful designers, Maria. I fully intended to buy dinner, but Maria insisted that she and her husband (Andres) cook. Over salad and risotto, they told me about their dreams of opening a restaurant. I hadn't planned for this meal to be a recruiting opportunity—and Andres never meant to inspire me—but today Andres is the Head of Bistro for our Budapest office. He creates amazing breakfast and lunch experiences for over 80 employees every day, with an added cultural lesson for each meal. He gets to learn how a restaurant of this nature can actually be feasible and in exchange Prezi gets a passionate chef.
Sometimes these dinners can begin a bit awkwardly, especially when there’s a perceived conflict of interest, like telling the CEO about your entrepreneurial aspirations. Szilveszter, for example, told me that he would like to start a company of his own. This conversation was a little odd for both of us since it essentially constituted my senior web engineer telling me that his dream is to work on something else. But, since then, I’ve wanted to help him reach his goals, and we've become more of a team than ever before. Our conversation opened up a deeper understanding for each other and Szilveszter is still with Prezi and is one of our top performers.
Kata had only been at Prezi for a short time when we had our dream dinner. Two months later, she realized one of her lifelong dreams by visiting the volcanoes of Hawaii. Later, she thanked us for the dinner initiative because it made her realize that she hadn’t really thought about her dreams (let alone bring one to fruition) since she was a child.
Dream Dinners: Do it.
These dinners have actually taught me more about leadership than what I've been able to learn from any HR literature or entrepreneurial experiences. Processes and best practices can never replace a genuine care for people. Having dream dinners means being vulnerable on both sides and uncovering something meaningful in our relationships.
This post was originally published on LinkedIn