I owe my colleagues an apology.
Earlier this week I tweeted at a colleague from our corporate account, @GlobalInteg, , saying something along the lines of “It’s a bit of a come down after Paris, but don’t forget the photos from [insert name of UK industrial town].”
I thought about it carefully before posting. I live in Reading, in the UK, and although I love the place, with some hidden gems of architecture (look up!), meandering river and fantastic community, somehow it just doesn’t have the same ring as Paris. And because Reading’s about the same size and status as the town I’d mentioned, I didn’t think it could cause offence.
But it did. The consultant received an email suggesting that all our trainers want to do is visit glamorous places.
For this I owe the person I offended and the town in question an apology. But most of all I owe my colleagues an apology, because nothing could be further from the truth -which is one that they share with most global workers and training professionals, so I thought I’d bust a couple of myths that I hope my colleagues will agree with to help put the record straight.
Travel’s not glamourous.
The excitement of travel wore off around the time that the security in airports increased. Whilst the security is essential, of course, the ensuing queues, long waits after security clearance, delay and general hanging around, along with the embarrassing confiscation of the odd toothpaste tube we forgot and put into hand luggage instead of a case whilst feeling like a criminal, are not much fun. Whilst those of us who travel infrequently or just for holidays may love a quick splurge in the duty free shops or airport meals, they’re the way to financial ruin for anyone who travels regularly. And most of the airports are pretty similar. For most regular travelers, they’re a necessary evil rather than something to get excited about.
Then there’s the long journey to get to venues – sometimes the travel to a training session can take twice as long as the delivery. Although our trainers may land in some ostensibly lovely places, if they’ve crossed several time zones they may be jet lagged and spend a whole day trying to acclimatise. On shorter journeys, they are unlikely to have more than a rushed hour to see the sights in passing.
And whilst there are some notable exceptions, most hotel rooms are now fairly standard.
I encourage our consultants to send me back pictures for our Twitter and Facebook streams to keep a mixture of things happening for the people who take the time to follow us – and because as someone mostly tied to a computer day in, day out, it’s nice to see the people and places.
But the reality is that most of the team would give an arm and a leg to be training within an hour of home sometimes.
Whilst a clean room with a working shower is a prerequisite for an overnight stay, sometimes even this doesn’t happen. A few weeks ago saw CEO Kevan Hall washing with bottled water before delivering a training session.
It’s a trainers dream that the room will be big enough for all of the delegates that have been booked on (there’s a wide range of rooms described as ‘suitable for 30 people’) or who turn up unexpectedly; that the flipcharts are there as promised and that the room is laid out as expected, saving them, the hassle of furniture removal before delegates arrive. Most would trade a fantastic location for a fantastic room, with great light and fresh air, to work in, simply because it makes their job easier when the delegates are comfortable and energised by the space they’re in.
And, of course, it’s the people we train who make it special. There are few things more rewarding than seeing that ‘lightbulb’ moment expressed, where someone’s thinking changes in a way that you know they’ve found that golden nugget that will radically change their working lives for the better.
That’s not to say that we don’t, sometimes, take advantage and get out and see some of the sights, of course. Having flown a long way, it would be madness not to go and see Red Square in Russia, or the opera House in Sydney. These are precious moments, but unlike holidays, not spent with loved ones, and only occasionally spent with friends.
All of our consultants are self reliant and resourceful, and recruited on the basis that they’ll be able to cope with working alone and being alone for long periods of time, and then thrust into the limelight to deliver training sessions to a room full of people who are often strangers. The lifestyle is something they are happy with as a byproduct of doing a job they love, rather than seeking the glamour of foreign travel.
Which is where I came in – with an apology for giving that impression. It’s nice to share those odd highlight moments, the exceptional venues like a ranch in Stellenbosch this week, or views over Lake Geneva. It”s great to share details of better venues so that others can find them too. But hopefully, the record is now a little straighter.
For our consultants, it’s the people and the working conditions that matter more than the location. Just like life, really.