If you work in a corporation with headquarters and affiliates, scattered in many places, or with international sites, you will be used to the ritual of ‘visitors’ coming from those headquarters on a regular basis. Indeed, you, yourself may be, or have been, one of those visitors. Those visits may happen in the context of a business review, or the annual business plan, or simply as a more or less regularly scheduled visit.
Some clients, speaking from the receiving end, don’t call this ‘visiting’ but ‘descending’ from headquarters. Some pointed to me, half joking, (but only half) that they were considering setting up a proper Visitor Centre given the amount of disruption, hassle and complexity associated with dealing with these ‘visitors’. Some of course love to have visitors. It tends to end with a good evening meal, who knows, good wine, and possibly extras. Others hate it because it forces many people to focus on ‘the visit’ as opposed to ‘the business’. Preparing presentations for Gene and Tony is often an ephemeral and pointless piece of work, but …‘it’s important to keep them happy’.
You need to see these visits and the whole paraphernalia around them as a ritual. And rituals stick because they are rituals. They serve a purpose, usually not the one that is declared and apparent.
Think about what is behind the visit ritual: the whole spectrum, from genuine interest to help, for example, to waste of time and corporate tourism. And all things in between. But, above all, think about four or five non-declared reasons for those visits. See what is behind them. Try to imagine what other purposes they may serve. Do Gene and Tony need comfort (that things are going well)? Do they come to exercise a bit of power? Do they think you need more help that you think you need? What purpose does the visit serve for them?
You will find more than four or five reasons. You need to list them and consider them on their own merits. Then, use the ritual and participate in it with deeper understanding. My advice is, in any case, don’t fight it. When rituals go, other rituals take over. Perhaps you can, gently or not, use the time to explore the value of those ‘presentations’. Perhaps you could put yourself in the shoes of Gene and Tony and imagine how ‘the visit’ allows them to exercise control. Then, ask yourself, why do they need to ‘control’. Just because they are ‘managers’? What would you do differently if you were Gene or Tony?
(At some point, maybe, a budget cut comes in – another ritual in its own right – and Gene and Tony are not coming anymore. See what is going to substitute this ritual. Something will. Of course the obvious is the conference or video call. Observe and learn how the new ‘visit’ has changed meaning. Or not? The point is to reflect, ask yourself, see what is behind or underneath all the time. Never take these visits at face value. You’ll miss a lot of meaning).
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