My family and I recently returned from a short trip to Mexico. We have visited family there several times with our son over the last six years, and this was the first plane trip for our infant daughter. Traveling with young kids can be a real challenge, no matter how hard you try to organize and simplify it. Our travel was generally fine and easy, until the final leg home into Hartford. Our daughter struggled with ears that wouldn’t adjust to the altitude, and her sleep and nap routines were definitely impacted by the trip. The impatient family sitting behind us was clearly annoyed to be sitting near a family with an infant. They made that clear from the moment they entered the plane, and their not-very-subtle commentary throughout was a bit of a bummer. Our daughter was crying a lot, but what can you do? I hope those teenagers learn some compassion and understanding prior to becoming parents.
Despite the mild hassle of obnoxious fellow travelers, the trip was worth it, especially for our son. He is six years old now, and his mind is fully switched on all day long. The value of seeing a different place, hearing a different language, dealing with a different currency, understanding different customs, and eating different food, was formative for him. His world view was broadened in a big way, and he is starting to realize that it is a big world out there. He is starting to realize that not everyone does things the way our family does, or the way things are done in our little town.
As I was watching him soak it all in this past week, it made me realize how valuable (and yes, formative) broad experiences can be for all of us, not just kids. Seeing different ways of doing things, trying to understand different perspectives, can be so valuable. And as I was watching all of this happen, I kept thinking back to my own colleagues and the client organizations that we work with. Many companies and organizations are rightfully focused on efficiency, with clear job descriptions and training people to do their own job as well as possible. I get it. This is an important thing for any organization to focus on. But while efficiency is a great thing, it is also important to allow people to stretch their limits and expand their world view a bit.
In other words, there is great value in giving your colleagues and employees room to roam around a little bit, to try different things, grow in their jobs, take on new responsibilities. There is great value in not just telling people what to do, but also explaining why you are doing what you do, so they can understand the mindset and your perspective. When I was training for the 2000 US Olympic Sailing Team, my two teammates and I would, every once in a while, switch jobs in our boat for a practice session, so that we could see what the other teammates see. We could experience maneuvers from a different perspective. I know I benefited by being able to understand what I could do in my job to help them do theirs, simply because I spent a few minutes seeing things from their perspective. And trading jobs for a few minutes was also always worth a few laughs, which has merit on a whole different level.
The point here is simply this… a short bit of international travel with my family made me appreciate the value of helping the people around you expand their horizons. And when we apply that concept to the workplace, we can create situations where colleagues understand each other better, are more motivated, and can better work together.
So I am encouraging you to think about what you can do to expand the world view of the people around you. The benefit to your colleagues, your organization, and yourself will be significant. (And I can only hope that the teenagers who sat behind us on Flight AA2306 from DFW to BDL on March 19 will one day learn that people with a crying baby on an airplane are probably mortified and are doing everything they can to quiet the child down!) An expanded world view is just as important for your colleagues as it is for teenagers and little boys.
Have a great day.