Who's at Your Table?

By Wendy Mann posted Jul 15, 2019 11:00 PM

People laughing around table

I always thought it was a Pennsylvania thing—when we got together for a visit, we would all gather around the kitchen table. Home for the holidays? The central hub was the kitchen table. When my mother had a friend over for tea or coffee, it was at the kitchen table. When I arrived home from Washington, D.C. for a summer visit, my sisters, mother and I would gather at the kitchen table to catch up. People stopping by to visit or drop something off? We would always end up talking around the table. It seemed that our kitchen table was central to everything going on in the house and also filled with the latest news from around town.

Later in life, hosting parties at my home, I noticed that we tended to congregate around the kitchen counter at the start of an evening and later spend hours chatting around the dining room table following dinner.  Was this a tradition carried forward or just a coincidence?  What is it about tables that invites conversation?

This table phenomenon had me thinking about our conference table at work. Who sits where during our staff meetings? During a team meeting? Where do I sit in relation to a colleague versus an interviewee? Is there a method to this table arrangement? These thoughts had me thinking about table strategy in the workplace and how a simple tradition from my own home takes on even greater meaning in the office environment.  


Think about your own office. Who gathers at your conference table? The people we bring to our table to conduct business, strategize the future or problem solve are key to our success. Good leaders will be intentional about bringing the best and brightest to the table. They make it a point to ensure that the innovators, thought leaders and those “coloring outside the lines” are at their table. Great leaders are not afraid to invite the naysayers to the table as well. These are the people you want at your table—those who bring their diverse perspectives and insights to your discussions. The colleagues you invite to your table make you a better leader and decision maker.

When you plan your table strategy, think about who will be thought-provoking and insightful. Invite colleagues who think differently than you—that combination will unlock greater ideas and innovation. Never underestimate the power of different perspectives. Like my mother’s kitchen table, your conference table can be the central hub for ingenuity and boldness. You have the power to make it so. 






Jul 22, 2019 02:18 PM

Fabulous thoughts Wendy! I also walked down memory lane when reading this. One additional thing that I have noticed and talked recently with a few people - Groups of people often hang together within the kitchen. For example, the women tend to congregate and the men tend to congregate when company happy hours, lunches are held in the kitchen. The next time you are at an event, take a look around you and note how the groups gather. Think about the impact you might have by joining a group other than the people you typically hang with at the office. Also think about moving from group to group. You might just learn something and/or change someone's perspective about something!  Can't wait to see you all in Orlando in September. Enjoy the rest of your summer.

Jul 18, 2019 02:19 PM

Thanks for your insight Wendy!  It was a trip down memory lane and thought provoking as well.   On a similar note, have you ever noticed that for meetings, just like at home, where people sit denotes their level of importance?  As a mentor for the CREW Leadership program I often remind mentees not to sit at the back of the room, or along the side, but to take a seat at the table as close to the person running the meeting as possible.   The other people in the room will perceive you to be a person of influence.   If you have been invited to the meeting, you ARE a person of influence, so take your seat!      Thanks and I hope you are enjoying your summer!