There’s no doubt Barry loves his family. Nobody would ever question his commitment to his wife and kids. But there’s a breakdown for Barry: when he gets on the road, he has a real tendency to be “hit or miss” connecting back at the ranch.
It’s not on purpose, but the road takes on a life of its own, and he finds himself checking in at odd times, “in the margins,” and he is often very distracted when he does check-in.
I feel you, Barry. He all too often hears his wife saying, “Barry, what else are you doing? Are you checking your email or texts?”
Barry has become a check-in guy on the road. He checks in when it’s convenient for him and gets the highlights, but that’s about it. His family has never really said anything to him about it but he knows his efforts in this area are marginal at best.
The good news about Barry is he realizes it and wants to make some changes in this area, but he is not sure exactly how to do it. Barry met me at the airport one day when I was doing something creative called Flat Kiddos.
Immediately, Barry resonated with the effort and a spark was lit in him to connect at an intentional level with his family while on the road.
I’ve learned through the years you become a check-in guy by default. No effort is required, and when many other road warriors don’t even do THAT, it makes you feel like you’re an over-achiever on the road. But the check-in guy is not the ultimate goal. It’s to become a connect-in guy.
One of the most difficult parts of becoming a connect-in guy and leaving a check-in guy behind was my struggle with intentionality.
It was just SO easy to send a text here and there, to do a quick “check-in” call or Face Time video chat. And there was nothing wrong with that except that was the only thing I was doing for years! It was predictable, inconsistent, and not strengthening my most important relationships.
The reality is most do the usual occasional text, phone call, or possibly video chat. This is the bare minimum. I’m going to assume you’re doing “at least” this on the road. If not, then this is a free wake-up call.
C’mon, man – get in the game. But we’re going to ramp this up big time so those in your life will, in time, see a difference in their relationship with you, no matter where you are!
What does it take to connect intentionally? It requires these three key areas. Even though there are only three, do NOT assume these will be easy. These three are brutal and brutally important.
Three Ways to Prove to Those Back Home You Truly Care on the Road
When I first started to be more connected with the family, my biggest struggle was my inconsistency. I would be actively engaged on one trip, then would “go dark” on the next.
It wasn’t by design; it just seemed to happen. Easy to do, and I had every excuse to back it up (verified by other road warriors who sucked at connecting), but do you know what was lost the most? An opportunity to build momentum due to consistency.
This can’t be a “one and done.” If anything, it will confuse your family and they will wonder if something is going on with you. If you’re married, your spouse may think you’re up to something!
Your Commitment to Connect Needs to Remain, No Matter What – Susan Buckley
If you’re going to have a busy day or evening, carve out a few minutes to think ahead and plan ahead. Most travel schedules can be navigated by planning ahead, which we discussed in detail with the perform energy habit. Now that you know you need to be committed to your connect energy habit, you’ll need to begin looking for ways you can keep up the momentum.
Your schedule will be your biggest inhibitor to your consistency at first. But remember, your commitment to connect needs to remain, no matter what. It becomes a vow to your family that you’re going to be the road warrior who is committed to going beyond the bare minimum to deepen your most important relationships.
Did you catch that?
A commitment. This means it’s a priority and that often means NOT doing something else in order to honor your commitment. This is possible once you embrace becoming intentional in how you connect with those you care about while on the road.
But initially, this is an internal commitment or with another road warrior. This is NOT to be proudly declared to your family in some grand presentation. You don’t call a family meeting, have everyone sit in front of the living room and impress them with your PowerPoint on how you will be committed.
Why not? You are really good at PowerPoint, after all. Well, although that might be true, they need to experience your commitment, not have it announced. They need to feel it, not be told about it. Over a period of time, that is as consistent as your travel.
This may be one of your biggest challenges on the road. You think eating healthy or exercising is difficult? I deeply encourage you to make this commitment internally and prove it externally.
It can be done and is done every day of business travel for an elite road warrior. But part of being committed in this manner requires a character quality rarely found in most people, let alone a road warrior, namely being patient.
2. BE PATIENT
I’ve found most road warriors are anything but patient. One would think that the road, with all of its challenges and opportunities, would teach us patience!
But patience in the area of growing your connection with your family while on the road is paramount. If you’ve been a slacker in this area of travel, be realistic.
It will take time to warm your family back up to this “new way” of connecting with you. If you’re anything like me, you’re also impatient and will want instant recognition for your incredible efforts.
You’ll want full credit and right away – heaps of praise thrown on to you like your experience on the road. But, it probably won’t happen that way.
They may be even skeptical at first and not respond the way you wanted or hoped for, especially with the effort you put in. You may hear crickets.
You may get pushback like, “What was that for?” But keep the faith. It’s worth it in the long run because you’re investing in the people you love, and they will very likely grow to love and depend on your investment into their lives while you’re away.
Often, I need to remind travelers that neglected relationships often take longer to heal. It took months and even years for the relationship to decay, so it’s going to take time for it to turn around.
It’s hard when you put the time and effort for it not to be appreciated. But just because there wasn’t the expected response, doesn’t mean it didn’t matter to them.
Here’s a challenge: Don’t ask how they felt about what you did to connect on your trip and what they think about it – let them come to you. When you ask, it puts them on the spot to say what they think you want to hear, not what they may really be feeling. So, let them bring it up to you.
You may be Spontaneous Scott or Sharon, and you can be that from time to time, but to be intentional, it must be planned. How consistent are you with your current check-in system? And the results? Just average at best?
I’m with you, man. I did it this way for years, and it made very little difference. I can’t speak for you, but I want any efforts over time to make a lasting difference, especially with my family; hence the need to change and plan it.
This is what it looks like for me. I schedule CONNECT in my planner, just like I do a meeting or anything work-related because what gets scheduled, gets done or at least the chances of it getting done dramatically increase.
Plan the When – This is absolutely critical, especially when you’re starting out and building this as a habit in your road routine. You don’t need to schedule an hour.
When you first start out, it may be only 5 or 10 minutes. I suggest 15 minutes so you don’t feel rushed, but put on the calendar CONNECT and lock it in. If you can put it in the same place most days, it will only help the habit to take form.
MOST of the time, I schedule CONNECT before my day has a chance of going off the tracks, so it’s more likely to happen. It’s become part of my energy hour, so I know it gets done, usually before my family even wakes up.
Plan the What – In order to be effective, you need to know what you’re going to do to connect.
We’ll get into the details of a number of ideas for “the what”, but know in advance it’s part of the planning. Being clear about “the what” will only help build a lasting habit that makes a real difference with those who matter most.
Key Reminder – STILL DO THE USUAL
I want to challenge you to commit just as much to do the usual text, phone call, and video chat. They still add tremendous value! Just be all the more committed.
I love nothing more than seeing those I love back home on a screen and how happy they are to see me. It warms my heart.
Remember, oftentimes it’s more for them than it is for you. So, put your big boy pants on, get over your day, and make the call. Often, it’s harder on me when we hang up, but those are the times it reminds me just how important those back home mean and matter to me.
They deserve every second and ounce of my attention and commitment to stay connected with them on the road.
BABY STEP TO CONNECT INTENTIONALLY
Commit to doing one small intentional thing each day you’re on the road.
The goal is consistency, and if you get overwhelmed upfront, it will be easy to give up, which is the worst thing for intentionality.
1. The Check-in guy does the bare minimum. Don’t be that guy – become the Connect-in guy or the Connect-in girl.
2. Your commitment to Connect needs to remain, no matter what.
3. You must plan when to Connect and plan what you’ll do to connect and then be patient!