Taking business trips with employees is a great way to bond with your team outside of the office, but setting the right tone while on the road is something many entrepreneurs struggle with.
To establish the proper travel etiquette for your employees, it's important to be productive and professional at all times, without imposing excessively harsh rules. That's according to Dan Ruch, CEO of Rocketrip, a platform that rewards employees for booking cost-effective travel.
"You want to make sure you're not sending the wrong signal to employees when traveling with them," Ruch says. "Some of the things that are not intuitive are really important."
So how do you strike the perfect balance of professionalism and camaraderie while traveling on business? Here are five tips Ruch says will make every business trip better:
Set the tone early.
Before embarking on your trip, it's important to make certain responsibilities clear, such as who needs to book a car, who should make meal reservations, and who will take the lead in meetings. The last thing you want to do is to leave your employees guessing on issues like these.
Lead by example.
Employees will look to you for cues on everything from how you dress when traveling to whether you choose in-flight entertainment or get work done on the plane. "It's really up to you as an executive to decide what the rules of the road are, but you should always expect your employees to act the way that you act," Ruch says.
Don't impose draconian rules.
While it's important to establish a policy for how much employees are allowed to spend on things like food and entertainment, there's a right way and a wrong way to do this. For example, if you tell your employees they have up to $75 to spend on food per day, they'll probably spend as much as they can. If you tell them to "be smart," however, they'll spend significantly less. The lesson? "Draconian rules often produce adverse effects," says Ruch.
Remind employees they're not on vacation.
There's nothing wrong with grabbing a beer with your employees at the end of the day, but you should think about how many beers you grab and where you cross the line. "You don't want to go so far as to create too casual of an environment where you lose some of the work dynamic," Ruch says. "It can be very nice to have employees thinking they're your friend, but the reality is that becomes problematic when you need to give critical feedback."
Put employees in the driver's seat.
Being out of the office is a great opportunity to ask for feedback from employees about your role as a manager. Finding out what's working and what's not working in terms of office processes is an important conversation, and it's one you shouldn't have in a conference room. Instead, do it in a friendly, disarming environment. "Too few managers--because they're afraid of their employees thinking they're weak--will not ask their employees for advice," Ruch says. "You develop a lot of respect and cultivate a lot of positive energy by asking them for feedback."