We were in a hurry to get to the airport. . .until we weren’t.
I’ve spent the week in Vicksberg. I came because our client was here this week. I’m here because my boss was here this week. I specifically didn’t come because Garrett was going to be here. In fact, Garrett and I don’t have to travel to Vicksberg to see each other. We both work in our Salt Lake City office. Not only that, we are on the same floor, same hallway. In fact, if we are both on a conference call, I have to close my door to avoid hearing his voice coming from directly across the hall as well as over the phone.
We’ve both in our roles for years. It’s safe to say we know each other pretty well. But, we don’t know each other at all.
There are many benefits to business travel. Certain things just can’t be done virtually. “Showing up” is critical to business relationships. Everytime I go to Vicksberg or one of our other sites, I’m constantly met with warm and geniune greetings.
Good to see you again, Rodney!
Rodney, I didn’t realize you were here!
Rodney, how long are you here for?
How have you been?
Wonderful to see you again.
It used to bother me that I didn’t remember all these people’s names. I remember a few, but not nearly as many as remember me. I’ve learned to smile, nod and exchange cheerful greetings without revealing that I have no idea who I’m talking to.
That’s not really the point. With four sites and hundreds of people at each site, it’s unreasonable that I would remember everyone. I have a friend, Bob Kitell. He’s a memory expert. He could probably teach me to train my memory to recall their names. But, as it is, I’m left with a vague feeling of uncomfortableness as I visit our sites.
The real point is that all those people know that I travelled from our corporate office in Salt Lake City to visit their site. My meetings were with management, client and some key Operations employees. I could talk to those people on the phone, and I do many times were week. But, those phone calls would not put me “boots on the ground” with our most important asset, the people servicing the customer. Only getting on a plane and flying halfway across the country can do that.
Our client was in Vicksberg to do a deep dive on some of our outstanding technical difficulties. Many of them have been being worked for weeks without success. The client decided that sending soem of their top IT people to see the issues firsthand would be valuable. And it absolutely was.
Here’s the thing, I didn’t help. No, really I didn’t “fix” a single issue. And yet, had the client flown people out to my site, but I refused to join them, it would have seriously affected their opinion of me. They didn’t say it, but I have felt like,
Dude, we showed up to help you repair your car. . .you should be here too.
Garrett isn’t an IT guy. He’s not involved with my team very much at all. In fact, he was here for meeting with his own client counterparts. We were rarely in the same meetings. And as I said, he and I have worked together for years. You would think that my relationship with him gained the least by flying to Vicksberg together.
You’d be wrong.
Rodney, I’d like to be at the airport 2 hours early. We probably don’t need to be, but it would just make me feel better.
Sure, I’ll be down in the courtyard. Just come get me when you are ready to head out.
Our Vicksberg office is four buildings in a square with a courtyard in the middle. The courtyard is used for company events, and several employees will occasionally bring in instruments and hold mini-jam sessions. It had been too hot all week for many of them, but I could hear the vibrations from a bass guitar, and I knew that for at least a few minutes I could enjoy some impromptu jazz.
Sure enough, Bobby was on the bass, and someone else was backing him up on keyboards. Ed, one of our desktop engineers was running through some riffs on the electric guitar. Even though I don’t play, they all gave me a hard time about leaving just as the music was starting,
Y’all said it was too hot to play this week. It’s not my fault that you waited until 5 minutes before I have to leave for the airport to play.
It was at this point that Garrett joined us. I knew we were already past the time he wanted to leave. I quickly said my goodbyes.
Are you ready to go?
What do you mean?
I want to play.
I play guitar.
I quickly interrupted and asked Ed if Garrett could take his place for a few minutes. Garrett took a seat and quickly fell into a rhythm with the bass player and the keyboard player. I didn’t worry since I knew that two hours was way more time than we would need at the airport.
But, had we not travelled to Vicksberg, I might never have seen this side of Garrett.
If you want to strengthen teams, put your people on a plane and out of the office.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.
(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved