3 Lessons Learned While On Vacation

As many of you know, my family and I took a vacation to visit family in NY.  The round trip is about 500 miles, but when we get there it about 750 miles of running around…family in Staten Island, Long Island, Queens, Brooklyn and so.  This trip was a blast!  We stopped in Pennsylvania at Dutch Wonderland (amusement park for kids 12 and under) then spent some time at the beach, hit up Coney Island, swung through NYC, spent some time in the town I grew up and several other stops over the week.  Along the way, I noticed several opportunities for lessons in leadership and project management…

“I don’t need to check, I know.” – When we arrived in Pennsylvania, we got to our destination about 20 minutes of the party we were meeting.  I decided to call the hotel we were staying at that night to see if we could check-in early…drop off the bags, wash up from the 6-hour drive, etc.  The gentleman that answered said “No sir, I have no rooms open.”  While early check-in is not unusual, I was certainly not expecting it.  The problem came in the attitude and quick responsiveness of the answer.  The hotel employee was rude and didn’t even give the perception of pondering my question.

Lesson:  Even if you know the answer, you need to deliver news/decisions to your team or stakeholders with a level of empathy.  Instead of a no.  “Mr. Kelly, I wish I could deliver that for you and we look forward to your stay with us, but I just got off a call with my housekeeping crew and they have told me that they are only starting their rounds now.  Let me double check if some other room is open.  Also, what kind of time frame are you looking for?  If I can have something ready in the next 30 minutes would that help?”

You set the tone of your team – At the end of the first night, the family and I decided to hit a local restaurant.  It was a long day (6hr drive, amusement park for 8hrs), the kids were falling asleep and we just wanted to get something quick to eat.  We found a Bob Evans that didn’t seem to have a wait and was close to our hotel.  From the moment we walked in, it felt like one dreary place.  The hostess, whose job is to ‘welcome’ us, barely looked up and it seemed as if we interrupted her some how.  We told her ‘7 people’ and she stepped away to setup the tables.  While I was waiting, I looked at the chef and waitresses who all seemed almost angry to be in the place.  Then it all came into focus…  While we were waiting, the Manager came to the front of the restaurant to do something and he didn’t even look up to say hello, slammed a paper on the counter, and walked away with an attitude.

Lesson:  As the manager, leader, PM, etc you set the tone and environment of your team.  If you are going to be stressed over every change…guess what?  If you aren’t going to be engaged, organized…guess what?  If you are going to be in the position, then you need to learn how to carry yourself in a positive, supportive, professional, and strong manner.  Start by asking your close friends if you project a confidence during change/turmoil?  Are you a pleasure to work with?

“We spoke about this 5 times!” – For the weeks and days leading up to the trip, I felt like I told my wife, my mom, and so on the plans about 400 times!  However, when we got there it seemed like I was the only person that knew what we were doing each day.  Even when we were all on the same page, it seemed like we were running late or missing a reservation.

Lesson:  1) The responsibility of understand the vision is on that of the communicator.  You need to know your audience and make sure they understand your plan.  (i.e. – Ask them questions or to repeat it) 2) Even the best plans fall victim to the unknowns.  You could let the entire vacation be infected with frustration and bad attitudes or you could set a tone of change acceptance.  It is going to happen, so be embrace it.

I hope these three tips have helped you out some.  I would love to hear some of the lessons you have learned while on vacation…post them below

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5 thoughts on “3 Lessons Learned While On Vacation

  1. Everyone, thank you so much for taking the time to visit my blog and provide some feedback. This is much more fun when folks engage.

    @Guy…I may have to delete your comments before Jasmin sees them :) You are right though, many women are programmed for success of the family before their personal goals. Many PMs need to take that stance.

    @Andrej…making sure our teams understand what we are asking of them is crucial to success.

    @Rapsli…Leadership & PM lessons can be found all over our daily lives. My children, the Bible…all great sources of lessons learned in leadership and management.

    @Michael…yes, close I have been a little to close to some of these lessons learned. We are our own best test case…we just have to be humble enough to admit the mistakes so we can learn the lessons.

    Thanks guys!!!

  2. Wow!!! Robert, you seem to have learned this lessons from experience… You seem to have a level of insight that just comes through as you speak on the subject.

  3. Thanks a lot. It’s always good to not only be focused on one domain but keep you eyes open to learn from other domains and experiences that are not directly related to ones primary domain

  4. I learned that no matter where you go the opportunity to get frustrated over primarily “emotional affects” lurks behind every wrong turn or misunderstood intention. Life has a way of disrupting even the best laid out plans. It’s funny because the parts of the plans you think will be an issue, wind up not being an issue and the parts you thought would be effortless become a truck load of emotions that get dumped at just the wrong place and time. Leadership is a big part of the family unit, and even more than who we are at work. We as husbands can take pointers from our wives because they are programmed with the success of the family as their primary purpose in life. They have a plan and it’s our job to to make sure it is implimented even if we don’t know what it is. The best PM is alway’s going to learn how to serve before he can ever lead. Our wives are our best teachers sometimes especially when it goes against our own ideas.

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