The Meet to Learn

Susan Young
Susan Young
October 3, 2023
Max participating in a one-on-on

Interpersonal skills and how they tie to leadership, teamwork, and business growth is no cakewalk. Yet every business knows that retention of employees is largely contingent upon quality interpersonal skills. That's why so many organizations implement principles and techniques taught by the greats.

I'm sure you've heard of Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends & Influence People", Steven R. Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People", or maybe even "Dare to Lead" by Dr. Brene Brown.

Each of these is extremely valuable and helpful in teaching you as an individual how to shape yourself into a better professional and, in many cases, a better person. They can help you form stronger relationships with those around you and assist in lifting your business to new heights.

One tool that’s taught by The Arbinger Institute for helping people come together is the Meet to Learn. This is a tool that we here at Smarty strive to embrace and engrain into our flow of work fully.

What Is a Meet to Learn?

Smarty employees looking at a computer during a one-on-one

A Meet to Learn is a meeting between two people where the goal is to understand one another's needs, challenges, and objectives, and to get to know them as a person. Seeing your coworkers as people with their own lives rather than obstacles or vehicles can change how you view your organization.

According to the Arbinger Institute, these meetings can position you to be more helpful to those around you. That's ultimately the goal, to find how you can help another person to accomplish their goals.

How Are They Done?

They start by scheduling a meeting between two people. At Smarty, we aim to keep our meetings around 30 minutes long.

Once you're together, strive to find a way to learn about this person. Perhaps you turn it into an interview where you can ask lots of questions, or maybe a more natural conversation would work for you.

Some of the questions you might try asking could include:

What is their role at work? What is their role at home? What are their objectives at work? What about in life? Are they facing any challenges right now that are causing them grief, hair loss, or sleepless nights? How does your work impact their life and their work?

For me, I try to focus on four specific questions:

  • What do they care about outside of work, and what stresses might they feel due to living life as a human being? Some examples of outside stressors:
    • Parenting challenges
    • Housing or transportation challenges
    • Community relationships or challenges
  • What are their responsibilities at work, and what stresses are they feeling with projects they're currently working on? For example:
    • What was their most recent win?
    • What was their most frustrating experience last week?
    • Is there anything that they stress about even when they're not at work?
    • Is there anything that makes them think, "I don't want to go to work today."?
  • Who are the people they’re responsible to?
    • Who do they feel they owe work or deliverables to?
    • Do any of these relationships create stress that I can help with?
  • How can I help?
    • In hearing any of the above challenges—both in and out of work—have I felt that there's something I can do to help? What action items can I add to my personal task list to help this person accomplish their goals?

Why Are They Crucial to Smarty’s Culture?

Smarty employees eating while having a one-on-one

We strive to understand that our coworkers are humans. People that have their own lives. That we're not living with 'main character energy'. Using Meet to Learns as a tool to help us connect has helped us to do that.

Here's what some of our team has to say about their Meet to Learns:

"Meet to Learns give me unique opportunities to establish real connections with my colleagues on a more personal basis. By getting to know each other and openly exchanging our objectives and difficulties, we create a sense of collaboration that ultimately strengthens the entire company." - Benson Ehlert, Sales

"They're great for making friends, understanding how the organization works, and uncovering opportunities to improve collaboration and business results." - John Hickey, Marketing

"When you take the chance to meet with someone who is not in your circle of friends, there is a synergy that can occur as you get to know each other on a personal and professional level." - Brady Amundson, Marketing

"I like meeting with cool people and learning about them. But it's also been useful to our organization in determining the other person's needs and objectives and seeing if I can help in accomplishing those." - Kent Gividen, Engineering

"I find that what is important to my team's success is of value to the person that I am meeting with. It makes it feel like we are one big team." - Kris Lindsay, Customer Success

"Meet to Learns are a great way to understand how your work affects your coworkers and how you can align your goals to help each other succeed." - Trey Rutter, DevOps

Meet to Learns are crucial enough that having them is often mixed into our monthly, or quarterly goals. So often, we return from these meetings with new insights and an understanding of how we fit into the company machine.

One trick I like to do is take copious notes during my Meet to Learns, and then follow up on the "how can I help" section a few months down the road to ensure that I've made an impact. Reaching out to the people who I've met with lets them know that I took the meeting seriously, and that I still care for them as a person.

If you're looking to work for a company with an incredible culture and want to have your own meet to learn with all of Smarty, check our careers page here!

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