21 Sep 2017
93. STUDY VISITS
Words: Alice Hoey
The more you put into learning and self-improvement the more you get out, so often it is from the toughest challenges and when we really go beyond our comfort zones that we ramp up our skills and abilities to another level.
Study visits certainly fall into this category; they take careful planning and preparation and they require real self-confidence and a highly proactive attitude. The rewards, though, tend to be well worth the effort.
Visiting another club or business, whether in the UK or abroad, can provide you with affirmation that what they’re doing is appropriate and effective. It can open their eyes to alternative approaches, to the different scenarios their peers are operating in and how they’re dealing with their unique sets of problems. It helps them to make connections with others in their field who understand the rewards and the challenges and may open doors to further opportunities and return visits in the future.
For those who take a study visit while out of work, as is often the case, such visits are also a valuable way to stay in touch with the profession, using the time away from management to continue their learning journeys and keep their knowledge up to date.
WHERE TO START
The first step is to identify which organisations or clubs you plan to target, and this will depend on the market or country you’re most interested in. It may be that you are intrigued to find out more about the changes or new approaches being employed in a different country. Alternatively, you might have a good contact and have been invited to visit to find out more about what they’re doing.
Once you have identified someone from whom you can glean most value think about how best you might get in touch. If you have connections then make use of them.
When writing to the organisation try to make the best impression possible, keeping a professional but approachable tone and making it clear why you want to visit and what you hope to gain. Be honest and clear about your motives and emphasise that you’re looking to further your knowledge and gain new perspectives.
Introduce yourself properly, as your name may not be known to them and, even if it is, it doesn’t hurt to remind them of a few key achievements or successes. There will most likely be other people competing for a piece of that individual’s time, so give them some background so they know how they can be of help and how they might also learn from you. Most senior managers will be empathetic and open to sharing with their peers, especially with those who are out of work at the time and with those who they are not in direct competition with.
MAKING IT COUNT
If your request to visit is accepted you’ll be told in advance when you’ll be able to meet and for how long, but if not you should go into it with modest expectations rather than unrealistic demands. Most people will be generous with their time, but always be thankful for whatever you are afforded and make the most of that time by being well prepared.
Before you go think carefully about what you want to get from the visit, what you hope to take back with you and any questions you might want to ask. Make sure you’re prepared also to share your ideas and insight, as the individual you are visiting will want to get as much out of the meeting as you do.
If you and the person you’re meeting don’t speak the same language, meanwhile, you’ll need to think carefully about how you’re going to bridge that gap, or the conversation will be limited and frustrating on both sides.
It’s a good idea to write up any ideas and thoughts from the day as soon as you can so that nothing is forgotten. You can then start to think about if, what and how you might apply that insight.
Study visits are great opportunities to expand your network, so make the effort to exchange contact details with the people you meet and follow up when you’re back on home ground. Thank them for their time and let them know how helpful it has been. Perhaps send a text to say well done for an achievement to show them that you’re interested in what they’re doing and are following their progress. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to get in touch, as most senior managers will welcome having contacts across the globe.