I had sort of a weird epiphany the other day.

We’re always learning, whether we think so or not – even in those moments when we think what we’re doing is teaching.

This little gem from Hugh showed up today so I had to run it - click to buy print

For even when we are explaining something, lecturing, training, teaching, speaking, or managing – if we’re present while doing these things – we’re actually learning how to do all of these things better.

There are times in my life when I’ve felt as though I was enduring a lesson from someone who was telling me how to do something that I clearly knew (or thought I did) how to do – perhaps better than they.

When I look back at these times through the learning lens I now see that not only was I learning an important lesson, the person conveying the lesson was also learning how to better communicate. I’m going to take that lesson into every meeting I attend going forward.

I think there’s an immediate message in this for business owners. Every moment is really both a learning moment and a teaching moment, but we’ve got to start viewing it that way.

Businesses with strong brand supporting cultures use this notion to intentionally infuse the business with life.

Nobody is born knowing how to run a business. We are always learning how to run our own businesses. Our managers are always learning how to manage. Our staff is always engaged in learning how to operate process. Even those charged with teaching are learners.

And that’s how we need think about the people in our businesses. Below are three simple ways to make learning moments part of the every day culture of your business.


Every employee should be given the task of teaching something to someone as a matter of course. It could be teaching members of another department how something is done. It could be running the all hands meeting to present the new advertising campaign. It could be outlining the mission of a not for profit partner the firm might help.

Everyone should be asked to teach because that’s how we learn best.

Being taught

Once a week every employee should have a 30 minute one-on-one meeting with their manager where the employee owns the agenda 100%.

The meeting could be the opportunity to figure out how to do something that is holding up a project or it could be the chance to outline a pet project they would like to take on or it could simply be the time to explore their life goals.

Managers learn how to manage when they learn about whom they are managing.

Planned learning

Once a week gather your team or department over lunch and just share. Make a new person play host each week and challenge them to make the session fun. You can make this a formal session or just talk about whatever you want, but everyone must participate.

You can share facts about yourself, teach a quick subject unrelated to work or read a poem that means something to you.

These weekly sessions are how you discover what everyone really cares about and that’s how you learn how to make the organization special. That’s how you generate commitment. That’s how this buzzword culture really comes to life – from the little, seemingly insignificant things we learn while trying to teach each other.

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • GlennPWallis

    Thanks for this post John. As a former Judo International I was acutely aware that when I became a Sensei (teacher) I was also expected to be aware of the ongoing learning that was happening as I taught. In many ways a typical Far Eastern dichotomy which you have nicely interpreted and applied to business development.

    • who knew I was interpreting a Far Eastern dichotomy 🙂

  • hugeheadca

    Great post! The big secret about teaching is that when you do it right, you learn a lot!

    Jim Ducharme
    Community Manager
    GetResponse Email Marketing

    • So true – first thing is recognition the it’s part of the game.

  • Carmen Sognonvi

    Thanks for these ideas, John! 

    We do a weekly staff meeting right now that’s very task-oriented (what do we need to get done this week?) but I’ve been thinking of adding a second meeting that’ll be dedicated to professional development, where we’ll read and discuss articles on both business in general and our profession (martial arts) in particular. 

    But I hadn’t thought of including an opportunity for our staff members to take on a teaching role too – that’s really cool. I’m definitely going to keep this in mind.

    • Love to hear how it works for you Carmen

  • These are definitely good tips and I completely agree on the importance learning has on a culture. I love the idea of giving everyone 30 minutes of dedicated time a week (although I imagine this could take up a lot of time if you have a big department). It’s always nice to be heard and to hear what ideas other people have.

    At Grasshopper, one of the things we do for teaching is  ‘Grasshopper University’ where various people from the company present on a topic they are knowledgeable on. It’s always interesting and gets a ton of good feedback.

    We also were all recently given Kindles along with the ability to buy whatever books we wanted, whether it be about business or not. Definitely a good way to encourage learning. 

  • What a marvelous post! Everyone we meet is both our teacher and our student. This article appears to me to be about business moving in a new direction, with everyone understanding more of the whole organization, rather than laser specialists everywhere. I think a broader understanding is usually better in the long run.

  • Hi John! What an interesting post that you have posted! It is very appreciative post. I hope these tips are really helpful to make learning moments part of the every day culture of your business.