Last week I attended a conference in Brussels for a few days. It was a trip of new experiences: new people, new ideas, new opportunities and new connections. It was the first time I’d been to Brussels, and I’d not travelled on the Eurostar before, so that was exciting in itself. It was also an opportunity to spend time with colleagues in a different environment outside of the office, and we were fortunate enough to stay in a good hotel, along with the other delegates.
When we spend time with our colleagues away from work, we see them through different eyes, eg my colleague James, who stood up and presented to a roomful of around 100 people rather than a group of 10, and then sat on the panel discussion. We can observe them in an alternative environment.
We can learn much from other people who are successful, the people we admire, even if it’s just something small from each person. When I went on the life coaching taster course recently, they asked us if we thought talking to a roomful of 100 people was a stretch or a panic goal (Bev James, “Do it or Ditch it”*). I now feel that it's a stretch, because I am used to talking to groups of 10 or 20 through the groups I run at work, and going to a public speaking group in Oxford. So for me the next step up from that will be to present to a larger group next time.
Not only do we see our colleagues through different eyes, we see ourselves through different eyes, and the eyes of new people we meet. In such cases we may meet people from different backgrounds, whether they are from the same industry or other parts of the industry. We come together to share ideas, because we are all working to a common goal.
We need to recognise where we think the same as people, and where our opinions differ, but the goal is not to think alike, “the goal is to think together” (with apologies to Robert C. Dodd**)
When we travel, we also have to remember that we take ourselves with us wherever we go. One morning, my colleague made a comment about how we treat our hotel rooms, saying in her opinion you can tell a lot about someone from the way they behave away from home. She’s right, I went to the gym before breakfast, ate as healthy as I could throughout the conference, choosing herbal teas and water, and even fruit for breakfast, a habit I may take home with me, and incorporate into my lifestyle. I felt healthier over the two days, as a result.
There is much we can learn from any experience away from work, whether that is a meeting or a conference abroad. We see ourselves in a new light, perhaps, when we get out and about - it's really as if few are lifting our heads up for a moment, to look around us, to be aware of where we are and where we are going.
So the next time you have a meeting, or you are sent somewhere, ask yourself, what can I learn from this?
Effective. Efficient. Organised. Professional.
* "Do It or Ditch It", Bev James, Virgin Books, July 2011.
**Original quote, “The goal in marriage is not to think alike, but to think together.” Robert C. Dodds.