For the parents amongst us, my recent interaction with one of my seven year old sons will ring a bell. I was just breaking the news to my boys that I had to go on a (rare) transatlantic business trip from a Thursday to Monday. This of course meant that ‘Daddy-Boys’ time wasn’t going to happen that weekend and I’d miss their various sporting activities. The look of disappointment on their faces was heart-wrenching; a weekend is a lifetime for a young child. As I tried to explain to them that on this occasion I had to travel, they asked one of those questions that really make you think that children sometimes have a more practical (common sense) outlook on life than adults …
‘Why do you need to travel Daddy? Why don’t you just do one of your video calls instead? Or get the other people to come to you?’
Well that stopped me in my tracks and as I came up with all sorts of reasons why I had to travel, it got me thinking about life’s priorities and whether or not I was getting the right balance between career and home. Luckily I am now in an industry and business where my need for business travel is greatly reduced and so this was a rare exception to my norm of conference and video calls. That wasn’t always the case for me in previous businesses, and I also know that many people who are still having these conversations with their kids and partners on a regular basis.
On that long flight I got thinking of how impactful and resonating a simple question from my son was in making me think about my business travel habits. It made the usual talk of business productivity and work-life balance pale into insignificance in comparison.
So my three take-outs as a Dad, as an ambitious professional and as a business leader are:
- When you do need to travel, know the value of your business trips not only in terms of business benefits, but also in terms of how much time with family, friends or loved ones you would be willing to sacrifice in order to travel.
- It’s easy to get wrapped up in work and put so much emphasis on succeeding professionally that in hindsight we compromise too much from a personal perspective. Try to regularly consider the perspective of your family or friends who will miss you when you are away.
- As business leaders it’s important that we realise the impact on personal lives of requesting our teams to travel for business. Be mindful that they may have to have the same type of conversation with their partner or children before travelling. This excellent article from Scott Behson contains some excellent insights and tips on how to be a family-friendly boss.
Finally, the funny thing about the timing of my son questioning my need to travel as opposed to video calling is that at the time I was just finalising the script to our recently released TV advert, which I hope you enjoy.