What a business manager can gain from traveling
And you thought traveling was only for hippies and vagabonds?
One of the topics on my site is international business. Having a background in international relations, I find that international relations is a very often overlooked realm of our globalized business world. I have often argued in my other articles things like why entrepreneurs should travel, or similarities between entrepreneurs and travelers. Most recently, I wrote an article about several major international marketing blunders. In the international marketing blunders, the companies lost millions because they failed to account for cultural differences. Thus, culture matters, the business world is no exception. I firmly believe that companies that plan to go global, or are already international should take some serious consideration to the role of diplomacy in the work environment. In this article I am going to make my case for why a manager might want to give some thought to traveling. A business manager can gain a lot from taking some time to travel backpacker style.
1.) Assertiveness – Business managers can become increasingly more assertive by traveling. They accomplish this by their interaction with others. In a bustling world and culturally different realms the soft voice gets left behind. Only people who avidly express what they want and don’t retract their position will get what they want. This can be from dealing with a variety of people or fighting through frustrating lines at the bus station.
2.) Communication – A traveler quickly learns the importance of being able to communicate. I often argue on this site, how fundamental the art of communication is to travelers. For optimal success, travelers not only need to be versed in other languages and/or phrases, but need to realize that communication differs by person, culture, and sometimes even native tongue. A person needs to adjust the way they speak accordingly.
3.) Flexibility in People – In accordance with the last point, a manager will realize that people should not necessarily be treated the same. There are some company policies that must be consistently applied and inflexible, but others could be adjusted to be fit the person. A manager who travels will realize how some people just don’t fit the particular mold, but are still perfectly capable to do a great job in the office.
4.) Marketing a Product – A product cannot be marketed the same to two different people. There are countless international marketing blunders where a company just assumed that because one group liked a product all others will too. This philosophy is totally wrong and can end up costing your company big bucks. Pay close attention to cultural studies and trends in the marketplace. As a manager, you’ll be praised for adjusting to this.
5.) Trouble-shooting – Another thing that a manager can gain from traveling is trouble-shooting skills. Travelers know that if one thing doesn’t work, they have to try an another method. In addition, travelers realize that if they make a mistake, then they need to learn from it. When you are traveling the world, you are your first and only line of defense in most cases, therefore, you need to become very good at learning from your failures and correcting them for the future. Skills necessary in the realm of business.
6.) Negotiating – Negotiating is a huge skill that travelers learn. They might not realize it when they are haggling the price down 20 Dirhams in the middle of a Moroccan market, but those negotiating skills can easily be translated into the business world. A manager can hone their skills of negotiating by learning the ways of world markets commonly found on the road. Within negotiating and haggling skills comes people reading, body language, and yes even your poker face.
7.) Cut the BS – I have spoken with a few friends over the years that said they had defining moments in there travels where they ‘lost their innocence’ and wised up quick by realizing that not everyone in the world was inherently good or trustworthy. Many would agree that a large majority of the world is full of good people, but there is also a sizeable percentage that carry malevolent intentions with them. You learn this as a traveler. Unfortunately, there are some people you just can’t trust and shouldn’t give the time of day to. Managers can translate this into the office by being able to realize scams, thieves, and schemers.
8.) Problem Solving – Problem solving is one of the most basic skills that a traveler learns. You have A but not B and need to get to C. How do you do it? Problem solving. You miss a flight, maybe even the last train of the night. How do you manage? You problem solve. Basically if they know where they intend to be or what they intend to get, you must figure it out or it will not happen at all. Problems can arise in the business world just as easily as often as they can in the traveling world. A manager who has handled these problems on the road can be better equipped for tackling other problems in the office environment.
9.) Different Needs of Employees – People do not have the same needs in all times. Traditionally, a woman does not have the same needs as a man. A Chinese worker, might have different needs than an American. Just as a Brazilian might have different needs than a Egyptian. Cultural needs come in a variety of forms ranging from religion to holidays to diets. A manager of human resources for example would be much more adept at handling these situations if they understood them well by having first hand experiences with them.
10.) Analytical Reasoning and Good Judgement – Sound reasoning and judgement are very important to a manager who makes decisions. A decision made off of poor judgement and reasoning does not stand on firm ground. Travelers acquire this skill. Call it ‘travel sense’ or even ‘street smarts’, but they are something that a manager would benefit greatly from acquiring by traveling.
11.) Responsibility – Traveling, especially when done solo, breeds a heightened sense of responsibility. A traveler is responsible for their safety, success, and overall well-being. They cannot just walk home or even pick up the phone all the time. Even with the vast improvements in technology, traveling still incurs responsibilities for the individual person.
12.) Openness to Ideas – Flexibility of thought is a big management skill. Some refer to it simply as ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking but it affords a manager the ability to think about things from a different approach. Bringing a different perspective and dynamic to the table can be highly valued by some.
13.) Time is Relevant – Is it ever… time is completely relevant on culture. I often joke with my international circle of friends, preceding each event with the question: are we talking local time or international time. For international time, I usually add at least thirty minutes to an hour depending on continent/country groups involved.
This concludes my list on why managers should travel. I believe that they have a lot to gain, particularly if they take the time to do some independent traveling. Click here for more articles on international business! What are your thoughts?
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