If your business has a company cafeteria, my guess is that you have become aware of these four mistakes that many managers make regularly:

ONE: Thinking that they can't get away from meetings for thirty to forty-five minutes, they continue to meet during lunch and have their meals brought into the conference room.

TWO: They walk to the cafeteria and get a to-go sack, bring it back to the conference room, and in this way only lose ten minutes of meeting time.

THREE: Managers show up at the cafeteria, but isolate themselves from everybody else at a table in the corner.

FOUR: Once in awhile managers sit with an employee, yet only because they have a corporate item to discuss with that subordinate. The conversation remains strictly business, and when the manager gets her point across she retreats to her office.

What do these dining habits say about these managers? What is commendable, and what isn’t?

First, on the positive side, continuing to work in an isolated setting where interruptions won’t happen reflects a strong commitment to getting things done. These CEOs and their colleagues battle the clock and calendar constantly, devoting their undivided attention to meeting deadlines, staying within budget, creating fresh approaches, pleasing stockholders, and remaining ahead of competitors. From this viewpoint, managers who remain hermits during mealtime are obviously task oriented and goal directed. Give them credit for their commitment to corporate success. Three decades ago, time management consultants would have rated them highly.

Second, though, another viewpoint spotlights a stark contrast: To the employees who are not seeing them and talking with them, managers appear aloof, distant, and uninterested in building relationships outside the senior staff circle.

So when a corporation begins to assess the company's communication climate, a good starting point is to check on what managers do during lunch hour. As you can guess, I recommend that they:

--Show up and circulate
--Sit with different people every day
--Avoid talking about business. Chat casually about community activities, sports, families, major news events, and other topics not related to work.

Managers who follow these recommendations—abandoning the boardroom and circulating in the cafeteria--will create an image of being approachable, personable, and no longer stuffy. Employees will stop referring to them as "The Suits."

NOTE: Don't worry, managers, about what you have lost by interrupting your meetings. You have gained much more by your interaction with those who want to know you personally as well as professionally.

Author's Bio: 

Bill Lampton, Ph.D., sharpened his management skills during twenty-two years of leadership at the vice presidential level in higher education and health care. His consulting clients include Gillette, Duracell, Sage, Krystal, and Procter and Gamble. His Web site: http://www.bizcommunicationguy.com Call him: 678-316-4300