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Can we do lunch? The importance of casual meetings

by Mark P. McDonald  |  February 20, 2012  |  2 Comments

Building executive and business presence in your company is a concern of CIOs and IT professionals because it is important and hard to do.  This post is one in an occasional series about relationship building at the executive level.  The question for today is – If I want to build a relationship with top management is it more important for me to participate in formal meetings or informal communications?

Top management and leadership teams exist based on a combination of skills, knowledge, perception and trust.  While individual skills matter, the strength of top management really shows based on how they work together, play off of each others strengths, recognize their weaknesses.

An effective top manager is one who knows how to make the company successful first, second and third.  Another factor is that top managers face issues, questions and challenges for which there are many potentially right answers and finding the right answer is not simple.    How did you feel in elementary school when the teacher asked you a question, all eyes turned to you and you blanked on the answer?

Most of the work described above occurs through casual meetings, dialogues and questions rather than formal sessions most people think about when they thing about top management.  Causal or non-official meetings are where top managers propose ideas, float solutions and raise questions that they would not normally do in a formal meeting.  Causal or non-official meetings are often where top management formulates and debates strategy and develops answers those tough questions.

Official meetings are important as they recognize formal responsibilities, roles and processes.  While official meetings formally communicate and commit the organization to a course of action, in most cases the direction and major decisions are made prior to the formal meeting.


Well consider a situation where two top managers/leaders are openly disagreeing in front of everyone else  — would that give customers, employees, suppliers confidence.

Probably not

So for the CIO, being part of the top management team means being part of regular, casual and other meetings where issues are understood, answers developed and they have the opportunity to demonstrate how the resources they control will contribute to enterprise success.

So can we do lunch?

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Category: change-on-the-cheap  it-governance  leadership  

Tags: leadership  management  

Mark McDonald
VP Analyst
12 years at Gartner
33 years IT Industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a Vice President and Fellow Emeritus in Gartner for General Managers Program. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Can we do lunch? The importance of casual meetings

  1. Well put, Mark. The trust to which you refer is built in large part on a foundation of open and honest communication. This is much easier to establish – particularly in the early stages of a relationship – in smaller, less formal settings where people typically feel more at ease to take “risks” in the conversation.

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