There’s only so much you can do sitting at your desk.
Let’s face it. If you’re not engaging off-site with everyone and everything that makes your company tick, that’s a problem – and lost opportunity.
That’s why you and your business team colleagues need to periodically get out of the office and, for example:
• Listen to your customers;
• Get direct feedback from your ultimate end-users;
• Work with sales colleagues;
• Investigate and learn about important marketing geography;
• Talk with manufacturing colleagues in the plant.
I was reminded of this critical factor for success by Starwood Hotels & Resorts.
Twice in the last two years, Starwood has temporarily moved corporate HQ to another country for month-long immersions:
“To get to the heart of two of Starwood’s key markets — China and the Middle East, which account for 75% of its growth — the hotel group’s leadership team, including Mr. [Phil] McAveety [Executive VP-Chief Brand Officer at Starwood], the CEO, chief financial officer and others, took a month to immerse themselves in each location. The team spent March in Dubai and visited China in 2011.”
(Emma Hall, Advertising Age, A Peek Into Starwood Hotels’ Marketer Immersion Program)
Starwood does this to learn. Here’s what they said in a company statement:
“Following the company’s successful relocation to China in June 2011, this second leadership move reflects Starwood’s innovative management approach to cultivating a more global culture by understanding, appreciating and leveraging different societal and associate perspectives and approaches to business and hospitality.”
Obviously, Starwood’s approach is unique and limited in application. But, you can still leverage the spirit of what they’re trying to accomplish.
So, make sure you provide the resources and justification for key business team members to travel. Look, despite the scrutiny on travel expenses, it’s your job as a leader and manager to make it happen. Here’s how:
1. Build specific out-of-office learning objectives into individual work plans;
2. Require team members to write trip reports with lessons learned and key action steps that are shared with the wider organization;
3. Go even further and have them present their learning to colleagues (hey, with smartphones, this learning can now be easily brought to life with photos and videos).
For sustained business excellence, make sure business team members have the opportunity to engage and learn outside the office. There’s really no substitute.
Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success.