On Getting Coffee with Colleagues

Back in January, before I started my new (old) job at Airfoil Group, I made a commitment to myself that I was going to grab a coffee outside of the office walls with as many colleagues as possible before I got bogged down by client demands.

So, taking a cue from Megan Gebhart (and her quest to get one cup of coffee with a different person every week for a year) I scheduled coffee, with new and old colleagues, alike, within the first week of returning to the agency.

(Pro tip: If you are really serious about grabbing a coffee (or just setting time aside to talk) with someone, block time on their calendar. I joke that you could send me a meeting notice in Outlook to jump off the top of the building at 1 p.m. on Friday and I’d probably do it because it’s in my calendar, but it’s not far from the truth.)

Even if you work in a relatively small agency, you are amazed, as I am, at how easy it can be to stay heads down and not get to know those who you spend so much time with each work week, even if you work in close proximity to each other. I’m not saying you have to be best friends, but it helps to understand their goals and motivations, even if they don’t report directly to you.

Here’s what I learned after drinking a lot of coffee with my colleagues.

  1. I Was More Productive – I’ve never been an early riser. But, like I said above, if I have something on my calendar for work, I am going to treat it seriously. Not only did I get into work earlier to meet for coffee, but I became more productive. A jolt of caffeine does that to you.
  2. I Learned To Listen – The whole idea of meeting for coffee was to get to know my new colleagues. I wanted to learn what motivates and inspires them. You can’t accomplish that goal if you talk the whole time. Every time you think you are going to say something, maybe take a drink of that coffee to let them keep talking. If you are the inviter, let the invitee drive the conversation.
  3. Everyone Has a Different Set of Skills – Not everyone follows the same path in this line of work. The beauty of public relations is that you don’t have to be traditionally trained to be successful. If you can write, tell a good story, and understand how to translate that to the media, that’s a great start. I found that quite a few of my colleagues didn’t graduate with a communications degree and immediately go into PR. Some of us found our way into this industry after meandering around for a bit. That’s okay. We’re just glad you’re here.

You can learn a lot about someone in an hour just by offering to buy them a coffee. Not only does it give you a chance to escape from the office, but it also helps establish aconnection, which is very important when you work at a small agency. There’s a greater sense of accomplishment that can be shared with everyone, and personal relationshipsgo a long way in helping others feel inspired.

And who doesn’t like coffee?