A few weeks ago I began to contemplate just how much about our business I don’t know. I’ve spent most of my career in marketing and sales, but when I look back on all of the topics I enjoyed studying in grad school – operations, finance, organizational behavior, human resources – I know far too little about how those functions actually operate within my organization. So on a whim, I dropped an e-mail to a guy I’ve casually known for a few years who is very respected in the operations side of the business and asked if he’d be up for lunch. I expected him to inquire as to what was on my mind, but instead he shot back a quick response – “Sure.”
Today as I headed to meet with him I wondered if I should come up with a few good questions to ask. I thought of one or two, but in reality I didn’t know enough about what he does to come up with many good ones. As we sat down I got just a little concerned that he might think I was wasting his time. As it turned out, I didn’t need to worry about anything.
I told him that I was curious about his job and his side of the business and from there the conversation took off. Most of what he shared was probably pretty routine stuff for him, but I learned more in that hour than I did in a few weeks worth of business classes. It quickly became apparent to me that by learning from him I was becoming better informed about our organization and, ultimately, better at what I do. At the end of our hour together, he suggested that we meet for lunch regularly.
Sometimes I think we underestimate people. Sure, the corporate world has some hyper-political individuals who protect what they know, but most people are caring and cooperative folks that are more than happy to share their expertise. Most probably enjoy it. Our plans at work – project plans and career plans – often “go wrong for lack of advice” but “many counselors bring success” (Prov 15). In the future, I won’t hesitate reaching out to someone to learn about what they do. It’s good for the organization – and it’s good for us.