We’ve always known that sharing food is a clear avenue to connection. Some of the greatest leaders have used this method to connect people in deep ways. In high school, my head coach would arrange for the whole football team to share a ‘carb-loaded’ meal at one house the night before the big game. Jesus, a leader in his own right, purposefully dined with individuals from all walks of life, culminating his teaching in the last supper. I once had a boss, in the non-profit sector, who made it a point to host a portion of the staff meetings at local restaurants. He knew that these meals would feed our sense of purpose, in addition to our stomachs.
At our school this year, we are banking on Tostada Tuesdays. For us, it’s pretty simple. In the preceding week, staff members sign up to bring one of their favorite tostada toppings. They scrawl that selection on the staff mailroom door. A few of our office staff members organize the spread, remind staff to join us, and “voila!” This relatively brief meal, scheduled monthly, will yield far more than six foot foldable tables, stacked with homemade food. We are creating hubs for staff connection.
As a leader, Tostada Tuesdays give me both permission and space to sit down with key team members for relational and light conversation. In an industry where complimentary meals and off-site adventures are non-existent, we need spaces for authentic connection. So that I can be completely present during this time, the meal is booked as an appointment on my schedule. Additionally, I work to ensure that sufficient supervision is in place. This way, I am pulled away only in cases of emergency.
When we share food, we are sharing a piece of ourselves. Not only are we having a shared experience, we are given the opportunity to share a piece of ourselves. Sometimes, our team members bring dishes that reflect their familial and cultural traditions. They show up with masterpieces that were made with love in their home kitchens. We are given the chance to give, receive, share, and express gratitude. And these actions are the building blocks of a healthy team.