How Good Company Affects the Journey
Written by Matt Curts
THE SHORTEST DISTANCE BETWEEN TWO POINTS
Every year there is a great migration to escape an unpleasant climate and find the needed nourishment to make it to the coming of spring. No, not the barn swallow heading south for the winter, but rather, a gang of mini vans in a side-by-side pattern packed full of midwestern families and enough snacks to survive the apocalypse. The destination – the Gulf of Mexico.
But before I and other road warriors meet on the highways that Siri espouses to be the shortest and fastest route, the vision of rest and relaxation fuels our last-minute preparations of stuffing the vehicle full with things than no one would ever need to simply sit and stare at the ocean for a week. Nonetheless, readied for eternity, we wake our people up at zero dark thirty to chase the greatest view of our week – a clear road.
A few hours in and all the preparation appears to be paying off and a smile comes over our face as we silently mock Siri’s overly conservative estimated time of arrival. The strategy is working and all are at rest.
Then it happens……
Ahead the highway is full of weary travelers who all share the exact same strategies of road travel. Leave early to hurry up and wait behind a never-ending conga line. Traffic grinds to a halt and you now hear Siri, in her pleasant South African accent, mocking you as she adds another hour to your estimated time of arrival. Not on your watch. Tensions rise, and alternate routes are pursued. Maybe the shortest distance between two points really isn’t a straight line after all? That state highway might only be 55 MPH but it’s better than zero, right? Really Siri, I’m still on the fastest route? An obsession with the destination overtakes me and all the sudden my family is a captive audience to my irritability, hurried spirit and constant calculating to outmaneuver this nuisance. The mood has shifted and rest is no longer available – for anyone.
When we finally arrive at our destination, us vacation pilots are confused that our family isn’t hoisting us upon their shoulders for coming just under Siri’s original estimated time of arrival after conquering insurmountable odds. Instead, you’re being told that you are not good company.
Maybe, like me, you have piloted a few vacation road trips and can relate. Or maybe as the pilot of your organization this describes the excitement and disappointment of leading others towards your desired destination.
It’s only natural to want to find the fastest way between two points. But we all understand obstacles are a constant in the world of business and road trips. And we know that hustle and adaptability are needed in challenging times. But in finding our way back to the fastest route we find the same frustrations and irritability resurface and our workplace culture takes a hit whether it be in the form of employee turnover or lack of engagement.
But is there a better way?
When it comes to your workplace culture, the destination is not the only goal of your team. It is vitally necessary, but it cannot stand by itself alone. To have a good workplace culture your team needs more.
A 1938 Harvard Research Project asked, “What makes us happy in life?” The answer – positive relationships – by a landslide. But how do we as leaders navigate the obstacles to reach our destination without ruining the trip for others? How do we find the fastest route while maintaining the positive relationships that would cause others to say our organization is a good company to work for?
I suppose it takes a change in perspective.
I heard a story several years ago about an essay competition from a local newspaper that challenged readers to submit their solutions to speed up a trip into the city that had and continued to experience the worst traffic in the world. The selected essayist described the fastest route into London in just two words – “good company.” What person comes to mind in your life when you hear, “good company”? When you think of your organization do you think of it as good company?
“Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter.” – Izaak Walton
In order to be a good company, we must first be good company. But where do we start? How do we ready ourselves for the next traffic jam? Here are some tips for the road.
- Become aware in what makes you bad company
- Ask someone you trust to point out the things that make you irritable and bad company. And then avoid such things however possible.
- My wife identified my limit at seven hours on our road trips. We now make one overnight stop along the way.
- Laugh with one another
- Laughter strengthens relationships, attracts others to us, enhances teamwork, help diffuse conflict, and promotes group bonding.
- We try to out- do one another with really bad dad jokes on road trips.
- Take time to take interest in one another
- To be seen and heard is one of the greatest gifts we can receive from another.
- Try and find out one new thing per week about each other that you didn’t already know. Speaking in stories is the best way to engage.
- Eat a meal together
- Sharing a meal with someone is the greatest form of hospitality as it meets the basest need of a human being.
- We sit down to eat a meal outside of the car as it gives us a much-needed break to the mundane nature of a long trip.
Remember, people join your team not only to arrive at a destination, but even more, to enjoy the journey. To be a good company, you must first be good company. Let’s choose to take the path of a great workplace culture. After all, it’s the fastest way to get anywhere.
See you on the highway my fellow road warriors.
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