Hit the road with your staff

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Elizabeth Newman
Elizabeth Newman

Are you failing to connect with your chief operations officer, or your director of nursing? Do you feel as if the two of you have nothing in common personally, and it's straining your professional relationship?

Then take a tip from Texas Reps. Beto O'Rourke and Will Hurd, who were featured in the most delightful story in politics this week.

O'Rourke, a Democrat from El Paso, and Hurd, a Republican from San Antonio, didn't know each other that well before Tuesday, reports the Washington Post. This week's blizzard meant Hurd's flight back to Washington was canceled, and O'Rourke's delayed, and both men had to be in the House by Wednesday at 6 p.m. for floor votes.

So they hit the road Tuesday, chronicling their journey on Facebook Live, visiting with reporters and citizens along the way. By the end of the day, they were singing Willie Nelson's “On the Road Again.”

But the congressmen appear to be extroverts, you fret. What about those of us who prefer quiet solitude on business travel? What about those of us who would like to drive to LeadingAge PEAK on Sunday belting the "Hamilton" soundtrack, alone?

I understand. Recently I picked up a stranger on my way to a writer's retreat. Jen was coming into Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, and I offered to grab her en route from the suburb of Northbrook to Galena, IL, several hours to the west. I had prepared: I had podcasts, an audiobook and Amazon music loaded. If we wanted to silently listen to other people talk, I totally understood. New people can be scary.

As you might expect, we gabbed all the way over. Jen did confess she had a moment of trepidation when I drove us to what appeared to be a half-abandoned strip mall about an hour into the trip. It was where a cupcake store was located and I had placed an order in advance. In fairness, it did appear to be a place where you'd murder someone and leave her body, then go have a delicious snack. Once we returned to the car, cupcakes procured, I think she felt more secure in accepting a ride from a stranger to go to the woods in the middle of Illinois.

Granted, Jen and I had more in common than O'Rourke and Hurd, as we probably could have spent three hours discussing books. Once we landed at the retreat, we spent a lot of time quietly writing or chatting with a group. The car ride allowed us to become friends rather than writer acquaintances. Plus, even with people you are close to, a road trip allows a time to reflect. My husband and I often have deep conversations about our lives on road trips.

While there's nothing that says you need to debate the meaning of life with your coworkers on a long drive to a conference, here are some tips for success for a work-related road trip:

  1. Offer to let one or two people drive over long road trips. The driver is automatically in a position of power, so letting your deputy or subordinate drive for an hour or so allows that person to have the keys to the car, literally.

  2. Start early or leave late. Nothing makes people more unhappy than sitting in traffic, whether they are a passenger or driver.

  3. Make a plan to stop every one to two hours. This lets everyone avoid having bladder pain because they are afraid to tell their boss they need to use the restroom.

  4. Drink lots of water, a corollary to the point above. Dehydrated drivers are likely to acquire headaches and become mean.

  5. Ask a coworker for help navigating, even with a GPS or phone. In many cities, the tech systems may become slow and you want someone to say, ‘Oh, I see the sign for the hotel down there.'

  6. Do.Not.Check.Your.Phone.While.Driving.

  7. Ask about temperature for those sitting in back. If your DON is huddled under a sweater and a blanket, it's possible you have not been thoughtful about adjusting the heat/air controls.

  8. Be flexible, but make sure to communicate times. Just like a flight, it's not unreasonable to tell those in your car that you are leaving the hotel at 10:15.

  9. Let conversation flow naturally. This may not be the time to do a group-grope over the future of the company.

  10. Allow input on music. Ask the team if there's an audiobook or podcast they might enjoy listening to.

Drive safely, and let me know if you have any other tips about company road-trips.

Follow Elizabeth Newman @TigerELN.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.