All Charged Up and Ready to Grow!
It’s hard to believe that the last six weeks of summer are before us! This summer has flown by.
In my last blog post, I wrote about the importance of “recharge” time as a leader, as well as the importance of leading by example for your team. There are endless studies that reinforce that having to be “on” all the time keeps us from being the best we can be as planners, leaders and at executing our business and life strategies.
My wife Jill and I had the benefit of a 2 ½ week “post-drupa” European vacation. We wanted to get out of our “Comfort Zone” and visit places we hadn’t seen before and experience new cities and cultures, and spend some quality time in the “Learning Zone.”
Additionally, I wanted to challenge myself to “unplug” but be available if needed. My assistant Kathy knew to text me if there was any need for me to address urgent matters. My team knew I would check my personal email every few days if they needed anything from me.
How’d it go? More than 2,400 miles driven and six countries visited (Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and the Netherlands) in just 17 days. During our adventure, I never logged into my company email, and it took me only three hours to plow through the email backlog once I returned home.
Not checking company email was important because if you “unplug” but jump into email, your team gets confused of when you are “in” the game and when you are “out” of the game.
My team did great work and never missed a beat in my absence. I came back refreshed and recharged and grateful for the opportunity Jill and I had.
We also had great Comfort Zone and Learning Zone experiences.
When we landed in Amsterdam and got our car to drive to Düsseldorf, we felt a bit disoriented and uncomfortable. We were out of our Comfort Zone.
Every day I’d say to Jill, “What’s up for the Learning Zone today?” By the third week of hearing that daily, she’d roll her eyes and say, “We don’t have to do something in the Learning Zone every day!” To which I’d reply, “Yes, we do. But some can be easier than others.”
When we re-entered Germany for the last few days of our trip, Jill said, “Wow, isn’t it funny that when we got here a few weeks ago it seemed so foreign and now, after where we’ve been, Germany feels like we are coming back home!”
I smiled and gave her that “See, I told ya” look and she said, “I know, spend time in the Learning Zone and your Comfort Zone expands.”
This was a special trip for us, celebrating our 35th anniversary. During our first married adventure together, we spent seven weeks backpacking in Europe. One of the things we loved about the 1982 experience were the town squares where people would gather to visit, enjoy music, eat ice cream and spend quality time together.
Today there are still many “gathering spots,” but with the omnipresence of smartphones, we regularly saw people having a beer and coffee together with their eyes and hands pre-occupied with their phones and largely ignoring their companions. Even we found ourselves falling prey to the same thing from time to time but would then refocus on enjoying the moment.
In addition to a great adventure, we also learned some lessons:
- You are not indispensable and can choose to unplug for extended periods of time to recharge. If not, you can choose to create a plan to get you there.
- Doing things personally and professionally outside of your Comfort Zone can refresh your perspective and enhance your leadership.
- Trust your team! Let them thrive while you take a break.
- You set the pace and you set the example.
I welcome any comments or practices that you may use to ensure that you and your organization stay on course. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kevin Cushing leads the Allegra, American Speedy Printing, Insty-Prints, KKP, Speedy Printing and Zippy Prints brands as president of Alliance Franchise Brands' Marketing and Print Division.
Alliance Franchise Brands LLC, the parent company of Allegra Network LLC and Sign and Graphics Operations LLC, is a world leader in marketing, visual and graphics communications, linking more than 600 locations in North America and the United Kingdom. The Marketing and Print Division is headquartered in Plymouth, Michigan. Franchise owners in this division offer one-stop marketing and print communications services. Its Sign and Graphics Division, headquartered in Middle River, Maryland, includes Image360, Signs By Tomorrow and Signs Now brands of sign, graphics and visual communications providers.
Cushing has owned and operated award-winning franchise locations, was inducted into Epicomm's Soderstrom Society, and was named Print CEO of the Year in 2011 when he served as CEO of AlphaGraphics Inc.