Imagine it’s Friday afternoon and another intense week is coming to an end. You’re feeling a little burned out and ready to call it a day, but it’s only 4 pm — too early to leave the office. What can you do that’s productive but doesn’t require too much brain power?
If you’re at Smartling headquarters, you may meander to the conference room for Drink and Learn, a weekly event that I started years ago as a sort of “office hours” for new hires. Anywhere from ten to 20 or more people attend each week. Participation tends to skew towards newer members of the sales team, but there are almost always members of the marketing, customer success, support, and technology teams there, too.
Someone (usually an enthusiastic and rising account executive) brings pitchers of beer. I then ask the group for questions and list them on the whiteboard. In recent weeks we’ve covered how one of our products works; dissected a competitor’s press release; explored SaaS economics; and role-played selling Smartling’s product to Smartling. That no one knows what will be covered ahead of time is part of the fun.
I know of no other opportunity that a team has to ask questions of a senior executive in an open forum such as this, where the answer is a deep exploration of the topic as opposed to a brief response. It’s helped to achieve a degree of transparency that would be impossible otherwise. And, I believe it’s helped attendees to better understand what drives the business forward, and how each of them can contribute to growth.
I like how Drink and Learn keeps me on my toes, too: because I don’t know what people are going to ask ahead of time, I need to be prepared for anything. I also like how the setting forces me to communicate in a way that will resonate with an audience that’s diverse both functionally and in experience and prior knowledge. Many of the topics covered during Drink and Learn end up being the inspiration for blog posts.
If you’re an executive looking for a way to engage and upskill your team, and have a few laughs in the process, try starting your own Drink and Learn. I guarantee everyone will find it rewarding.
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