My wife Sarah and I had always wanted to take a long train ride on some luxury rail car like the Orient Express...across the country. Around mountains and across prairies. Over bridges and through valleys. There's something romantic in a train's history... from the days of steam locomotives and establishment of the trans-continental railroad to classic murder mysteries and black and white Hitchcock films. The idea of seeing beautiful landscapes, at the ground level without the necessity of driving or piloting is novel to me. Perhaps the allure is in taking the long way when we spend so much of our lives on a tight schedule...hurrying from here to there.
After hearing myself explaining to our daughter: "let's go or we're going to be late..." far too many times, my wife and I finally decided to pull the trigger and break the mold of our traditional vacations and take "relaxing" beyond the beach... or a day spent at the park. Enjoying a museum or time in Catherine's "play room / art studio" is relaxing as well but I think it's important that we incorporate more dramatic pauses into her early developmental years and take the time to observe the world from a very different perspective.
I once read an article in the Long Beach Business Journal written by Ian Lamont, Senior Consultant and Principle of The Lamont Group (TLG).
In his article titled: "Knowing what you Don’t Know", he mentioned a concept that greatly impacted his leadership style and perspective on business known as “Management by Wandering Around”. Although I’m a firm advocate of hospitality managers and athletes “moving with a purpose” (as a friend and former colleague, Tom Jackson, used to be fond of saying), the concept has stuck with me as a valuable tool used to successful temper over-management.
“…a book I read when I was a young manager, full of ego and pride, was Tom Peter’s In Search of Excellence. One term that stayed with me was “MBWA- management by wandering around.” In my career I have been the CEO of small businesses and large businesses. No matter the size, most days I did my “MBWA”. Despite having other executives tell me “I don’t have time to wander around,” nothing I could have done at my desk was more valuable than what I learned during my “wandering around.”
I learned about families, vacations, upcoming celebrations and life’s struggles. I became human to employees (fancy that, the CEO cares). I found out what was impacting their performance, what they thought, what they would do. My management team started “MBWA” also and not just in their own department. I am proud to say at every business, performance was high, and record setting years occurred. Not because of me or even my senior managers. It was due to the right people being put in the best position to be successful and everyone understanding that if they did not know the answer, it was OK to seek out someone who did.
So try “MBWA”. Ask the people around you, "What do you need to know to do your job?" Sit with them at their desks and ask them about the processes they've adopted; the systems they use and the knowledge they draw upon. The answers will surprise you, especially after they get accustomed to the surprise of you asking.
Kick off every staff meeting by going around the room and asking participants to volunteer something they've recently learned about the business.
By showing you're constantly hungry for knowledge, you create an open culture that facilitates the free exchange of ideas. And the best part of all is that you'll maintain a high degree of self-awareness: You'll act on what you know — and take steps to find out what you don't. You will park your ego and pride and become one heck of a leader!”
I’m convinced that there is value in sitting back and watching the world as it plays by through something other than the screen of an i pad or large screen LED. Don't get me wrong...our daughter has plenty of “outside time” riding her bike, going for walks, playing in the park or on her play set with friends....but we are committed to exposing her to the natural world from as many different perspectives as possible.
Most of the majestic sights she's witnessed have been while engaged in some other consuming activity...be it playing on the beach, skiing atop a mountain, flying 15,000 feet above the ground or from the confines of a car seat.
Although the Grand Canyon, Volcanos and Giant Sequoias are on our must-see list...taking a long ride and just watching the world go by seems important right now.
After heading to New York to see the Big Apple Circus (a requisite after watching Madagascar 3 almost as many times as she's watched Mac and Cheese dissapear from a spoon) we will be taking an 11 hour train ride from Penn Station to Mount Tremblant in Quebec Canada. The Adirondack train's route from New York City, through the lush wine country of the Hudson Valley, into Montreal is supposedly "one of the top 10 most scenic train rides in the world".
Stacy King Gordon of suiteseven.com writes:
"...many of the people to whom we speak are laser-focused on the get-er-done: driving the day-to-day business ahead with the blocking and tackling necessary to close sales, get projects done satisfactorily and maintain strong customer relationships. It leaves very little time for stepping outside the workflow and thinking about business strategy in the abstract. Spending an hour talking about opportunities, challenges, the marketplace, competitors and other topics is a rarity...That’s why brainstorming sessions — which creative teams have always believed to be the magic bullet for uncovering great ideas — are not always successful. Brainstorming team members are so focused on solving the problem within the time allotted that they don’t take the time to reflect on the business realities and naturally make the connections that help them arrive at a real breakthrough. (Scientists have even found that brain activity when arriving at creative a-ha’s is very different from the activity involved with traditional problem-solving.)"
Heading north, we will depart New York's Penn Station in the morning and arrive in Montreal later that evening, where we will take a car to what the New York Times calls "...[the combination] of a charming Canadian rustic logging town and the Old World flavor of the French Alps ... with a European-style pedestrian village nestled at the bottom of the mountains. We'll forgo the long way home in lieu of a direct flight back to Sioux Falls that affords us an extra day to ski... but the long route getting there should be a memorable and "grounding" experience.