My Lessons Learned From a Disastrous Company Trip
Last October, we took the company to Boston for Inbound, HubSpot's marketing conference. The trip – a reward for our staff for hitting a revenue goal – was intended to allow our employees to learn more about marketing and enjoy Boston.
The trip was a nightmare.
With the whole company gone, clients were getting frustrated and felt like we weren't taking care of their accounts. And rightly so; between the conference and daily work, our employees were overloaded with 12-hour days just to make sure their jobs were taken care of. In turn, we had frustrated employees and clients, and little time to enjoy the city.
After peeling back the layers of last year's trip, the mistakes hold valuable lessons.
Be A Leader And Unify Your Team
By the time we were on our way home, everyone was thrilled. If I or anyone else had stepped up to lead through a genuine, positive example, maybe the trip would have been enjoyable.
Leadership means remembering to lead through the tough times. Leadership is remembering your purpose and pushing forward. And in my raincloud of doom and despair, I didn't lead.
If I were to do it again, I would be empathetic and put myself in the shoes of my clients and employees. Through understanding experiences, solutions are easier to come up with. As leaders, we must remember to empathize with others in order to fully progress. When we fail to understand the situations of employees, business partners or clients, we are often blinded from finding solutions. And we cannot be united as a team without empathy.
If we had prepared in advance, we could have alerted our clients that the team would be less responsive while on the business trip. We could have even given them credit for a free week since we weren't going to be at regular capacity – or we could have even invited them to come up to the conference with us. Had we prepared in advance, it would have allowed our teams to be reassured we had their best interest in mind.
Having unity with my teams could have avoided the entire catastrophe. If I had allowed my team to make mistakes and progress – instead of blaming them – we would have had a different experience. We could have learned and grown together. I could have been a mentor instead of a chasm of despair. Had we united, we would have done so much more.
Without unity, there is no safety. And safety is a core human need; without it, we crumble. As leaders, we need to ensure we are united and empathetic with our team at all times.
It wasn’t the cost or revenue losses that most frustrated me about this trip. Sure, the $50,000 to get everyone there was costly and the $100,000 in LTV of the clients’ lost during the trip was also an unfortunate result.
My real frustrations lie with the fact that the trip was meant to be an engaging, bonding, fun experience, yet it was the opposite.
Patience is critical for leaders, especially in times of distress. Things are always going to go wrong – employee, client or business distress. But when we allow those items to consume us, we lose. If we are consumed by distress, those who follow us will be consumed as well.
Having patience during this trip could have provided the clarity needed to improve the situation. If we had taken some more time to relax, sightsee or go on a whale watch, we could have bonded and used that time to get to know more about each other. A simple stroll around Harvard's campus surely would have ignited interesting conversation.
Evaluate Your Perceptions
At the time, I couldn't see how my perceptions were shaping the situation. My perception negatively changed the entire experience for me – and likely for those around me.
When you have a negative perception of a situation, you are inclined to believe that is your reality. If I had chosen to believe that "this trip is a growing experience and I know we will learn valuable lessons here," the trip would have been a completely different experience. Evaluating perceptions and personal self-awareness are critical as a leader. Being able to objectively analyze a situation is critical for growth.
We must continue to evaluate our own perceptions because they are often skewed – especially as leaders. If you find yourself in a situation that seems to be bogged down with negativity, take a deep breath and look for the positive. How are you skewing your own perceptions? What do you have to be grateful for? Through searching for gratitude, oftentimes you can change your perspective.
Had I stopped to realize how awesome it was that we hit our goal to take the company to Boston in the first place and that we were able to fly our entire company half way across the country, I likely would have worked harder to make the experience a positive one. We must evaluate our choices, thoughts and actions to allow our businesses, and humanity as a whole to continue to grow.
Next time you plan a company-wide trip, remember the little things:
- Including clients in your planning.
- Better plan for workload capacities during the trip.
- Putting yourself in the shoes of your employees before making any arrangements.
- Remembering that chaos happens – and chaos forces growth. Be patient.
- People follow your lead – negative or positive.
- Always be grateful; gratitude allows growth.
- And most of all, a trip is a trip. Don't forget to enjoy the experiences you have as they come!