One of the most enlightening activities I experience as I facilitate a partner retreat, assist a firm with strategic planning or with merger conversations is dinner the night before the meeting.
Almost every time, the partner group is relaxed and looking forward to the task ahead. They really seem to enjoy having dinner with each other, rehashing old stories about their early years, about the time they made a big mistake, the time three of them got lost driving to a client location, and so on.
They laugh with each other and tease each other. They tell me so many good things about their firm and their careers. Often, during this casual, conversational dinner they bring some great ideas to the surface. What if we tried this? What if we did that?
Some of us consultants lovingly call this event “the 3-hour dinner” because it goes on for a really long time (and we have been traveling and are tired). That being said, I would NOT change it – it is quality time for the group and for the facilitator.
I highly recommend that partner groups schedule group dinners every quarter or at least twice a year. Just the partners – no spouses, no managers – maybe include partners-in-training. Don’t have an agenda – just relax, enjoy dinner (maybe a little wine) and some great conversations might occur. This would be even more important if you have more than one office location.