Kamikaze Day Trips

July 3, 2012 at 10:00 am

Aside from new babies and youthful foolishness, there really is no good reason for a normal human being to be awake at 3am.  let alone dressed for success and preparing to board a plane bound for an adjacent state.

And yet, here I am.  headed to a leadership development meeting with a first-time supervisor.  After my meeting, I’ll board another plane and return home – maybe in time to kiss my son good night.

Why do I do it?  Because sometimes face-to-face is the best way to do things.  I think at times it’s too easy for us to fall back on technology and justify the lack of contact by showing bottom-line savings.  But that’s just dollars.  What does it cost us in relationship value?  In morale?  In employee engagement?  In today’s tech-savvy landscape, face time packs an even bigger punch.

Here’s my favorite case-in-point:

Once upon a time, I was HR Manager for a small, growing firm that had just moved its headquarters from Southern California to Portland, Oregon.  We kept a small office in So-Cal, but it was a huge change for them.  Naturally, there was resentment.

Along comes an HR Manager and Finance Manager that they’ve never met.  Via phone and email they find out that we’re changing their benefits and implementing project-based accounting.  Without their active input.  My finance counterpart and I were considered their adversaries.

We tried to be empathetic.  We provided information, listened to feedback, and treated them with genuine respect and courtesy.  They still loathed us.

Finally, I decided it was high time for the two of us to show some sincerity and get our hind ends on a plane.  Stand in front of them and prove we weren’t the devil.

We planned to spend two days showing them the new systems, listening to their concerns and providing them with the context around the company decisions.  We expected to be blasted.

Once we arrived and they saw we didn’t actually have horns and pitchforks, things settled down.  After two hours of talking, most of our issues were resolved.  There was laughter.  We talked about things other than work.  We were able to return home the same day.

From then on, we had truly amazing and productive relationships.  Even some friendships that still exist after we’ve all moved on.

Why?  Because we put our travel expenses where our mouths were.  We acted like we cared.  Every time benefits renewed, I hopped a plane with our 401(k) advisor and insurance rep.  New software implementation?  Plan tickets for me and the trainers.

What did we get in return?

  • Staunch advocates for our initiatives
  • Employees who stayed longer than the circumstances warranted
  • Great morale
  • Total engagement

That’s well worth the lack of sleep and the price of a plane ticket.

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