I recently asked Muhtar Kent, Chairman of Coca-Cola what as a top executive his greatest sources of learning are. As background for almost a decade Kent was CEO of arguably the most powerful brand in the world, Coca-Cola, where he moved the company forward significantly. His response was, “One of the things I’ve tried to do throughout my career is take time to sit down and have meals with people. There’s a differnet dynamic in the room, one that’s more at-ease conducive to talking and really getting to know people and their perspectives.”
As I was thinking of Ken’t s response, I remembered that the Latin derivative for the word “companion’ or “company” is cum meaning with and pains meaning bread. Therefore by breaking bread with someone you strengthen the companionship and ultimately your company. So as CEOs, when you want to learn either from or about people, consider the simple, enjoyable and profoundly powerful activity of having meals with an executive.