Best practices on the road and on the job!

A road trip! That’s what it was all about in the ‘50’s. The war was over and people had money for both cars and leisure time. Gas was cheap. Throw the kids in the back of the station wagon and see the country! National parks, Route 66, Dairy Queen…life was good!

I still love a good road trip—an invitation to new experiences. And I got to thinking, there’s really not such a big difference between managing a road trip and managing a team of sales associates. To prove the point, I’ve taken some pages from my own history book of road trips.

1. Have a Plan but Be Flexible: Whether you’re managing a sales team or family trip, know your goals. It could be anywhere from pure spontaneous adventure to following the path of Lewis and Clark. Know how long you can take to get there (deadlines) and the budget. Even with planning, be open to opportunities along the way as well as weather, illness or unexpected closures that could call for an adjustment to the original plan.

2. Attitude: A positive attitude is essential for success. My parents were role models on how to turn challenges into positives: an unexpected flat tire offered the opportunity to be dad’s “top assistant”. A hot day was broken up with shaded parks, ice cream and a run in the sprinklers. Grumbling just wasn’t a part of their vocabulary.

3. Be Respectful: No one said it was easy to spend a week or more on the road with the family. Whether you’re in the car or at the workplace, show respect to those around you. In times of stress, stay calm, look on the bright side, and always act out of kindness.

4. Be a Team: Parents, like managers, tend to take responsibility for outcomes and successes. However, the process works best when everyone is vested. One year, I decided how much money we could spend on the trip and divided that amount by the number of days we’d be on the road. Each day, as a family, we decided if we wanted to stay in a motel (and fill the day with free or inexpensive activities), or camp and have money left over for more pricey fun. As a team, we came up with some great itineraries while staying within the budget. The children embraced the activities because they had helped make the choices. They felt valued and responsible. The amount of complaining and sibling squabbles went way down. It taught us all a lot about setting limits while working together to achieve a common goal.

5. Stay Positive: Focus on what CAN be done, rather than what can’t. It didn’t make sense to moan about the fact that it was too expensive to take the whole family to the water park. Instead my parents let us know on how much fun everyone would have, splashing in the ocean. They were right!

6. Provide Opportunities for Learning and Growth: A road trip offers the chance to teach kids to read the map, put gas in the car, wash windows, take money to the cashier, watch for specific road signs, help plan activities, and more. It lets them feel important and valued. Likewise, your employees want to know they are valuable to the function of the company. Empower them to learn new techniques and grow in their skills, just as you would do with the kids on a road trip.

Choose your Route

This month, whether your goal is summer fun or top customer satisfaction ratings, remember the lessons of the road trip: Know your goals, stay positive and be open to new opportunities. In addition, be a problem solver, empower those around you, always be respectful and expect the best!

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