Ever wish you could rapidly change a leader’s mindset? Instead of an online course or workshop, consider sponsoring a travel-based cultural immersion experience such as ones that are offered through Backroads Travel, Culture Xplorers, and Castles and Concerts. Why? Because travel to new places is one of the most powerful catalysts for accelerating mindset shifts. Studying a new language and culture provides similar benefits and enhances the upside of travel.
Why is this?
- Novelty engages the brain and stimulates learning retention and recall
- Travel exposes people to new ways of thinking, living and interacting with others
- Immersion in a different culture builds tolerance for experiencing and navigating uncertainty and discomfort
In fact, three of the six mindsets included in The Learn Lead Lift Framework® (see figure A) are particularly likely to evolve faster through travel based cultural immersion experiences:
- Identity Matters – being immersed in a different language and culture and having the experience of being the “only” person holding one or more identities within a space is new for many leaders and can unlock access to empathy.
- 3T Model® – travel often brings with it the unexpected and requires leaders to make a number of key decisions based on limited domain knowledge or experience. For example, if the last flight out of the day is suddenly canceled, a leader will have to choose quickly whether to tolerate, transform or transcend the situation. Time to deliberate between options may be short.
- Growth – travel provides unique opportunities for leaders to participate in new and unfamiliar activities – some of which they might enjoy and/or excel in doing and some they probably won’t.
I’ve been fortunate to have traveled extensively and lived in three different regions of the United States, which continues to influence my thinking about leadership in profound ways. One of my more recent insights was that you can visit a place superficially without choosing to be vulnerable enough to immerse yourself in it. In other words,
when you travel, you can choose the experiences that will take you out of your comfort zone or you can choose the experiences that will maximize your personal comfort and connection to the familiar.
While attending university, I spent a full year living in Madrid, Spain and traveling extensively throughout Europe. There, I encountered novelty every day, which was both challenging and awkward (like figuring out what exactly made a joke told in Spanish so funny) and positive (amazing food and enduring friendships).
This summer, my family and I took a 2-week guided group tour through Italy. I found myself reflecting while there on what today’s me was learning and discovering along the way compared to what younger me learned and discovered during her travels.
Granted, traveling for the purpose of work or caregiving can be physically, emotionally and financially demanding. And, like travel for leisure, it is a form of privilege not accessible to everyone.
Fortunately, it’s possible to replicate many of the benefits of physical travel for mindset development in ways that are far more accessible for most people.
- Virtual tourism through organizations like Beeyonder
- Reading a book, such as the one I read prior to my trip to Italy, Under The Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
- Watching a cultural documentary
- Visiting a cultural museum or temporary exhibit
- Guided visualization
Keep in mind that it’s one thing for leaders to have a robust cultural immersion experience and it’s another step to cultivate meaningful insights from that experience.
However you choose to incorporate novelty into your leadership development programs, don’t forget to create dedicated opportunities pre, during and post travel or cultural immersion for guided reflection and integration of learning. Program facilitators can also help participants to generate insights and increase the ROI of travel or cultural immersion program components by:
- Asking participants to keep a short daily written, audio or video diary of key learnings while they are traveling
- Requesting a written after action report or debrief around their insights
- Scheduling dedicated program time for participants to generate insights through dialogue with one another.
If you or a leader you know has experienced a mindset shift during travel or cultural immersion, we’d love to hear about it. Please drop us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more tips on how to shift leader mindsets, download our Self-Awareness Bundle available on our website under the “Becoming a Self-Aware Leader” section today.