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International Business Travel: Rules of the Road

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If your company sends you abroad to conduct business, congratulations. You're obviously respected by your colleagues, and your management thinks highly of you.  After all, you can't send a member of the "B Team" on a trip that will require a staff meeting in Paris, a client meeting in Johannesburg, a vendor meeting in Singapore, and an employee meeting in Mexico City. And even though you're probably a global citizen because of how you were raised, it's a good idea to brush up on the rules of the road.

Here are some tips from seasoned road warriors.

  1. Plan for long lines at the airport: These days, airports are crowded. We can complain about this all we want, but it probably won't change how things are. Checking in can be an exhausting ordeal.  Security can be a nerve-wracking hassle. You don't want to miss a flight or a connection: It could destroy your timeline and cause immense numbers of complications. So resolve to stop complaining about airport hassles.  Strive to be a Zen Traveler.  Go with the flow.  Really, what other choice do you have? 

  2. Dress to impress: Of course, you want to be comfortable on a long international flight, but don't overdo it.  Choose travel clothes that are what one leading-edge company calls "smart business casual."  That means no pajamas, flip flops, workout garments or anything that suggests you just got out of prison. Like it or not, people judge you by what you wear.  And it's almost impossible to reverse a first impression.

  3. Take jet lag seriously: Your mission upon landing is to recover from jet lag. Your body knows something strange has just happened. Over years of travel I have asked flight attendants and pilots how to deal with jet lag and they advise us to drink "gallons" of water and get lots of sunshine. Everyone is unique, so whatever works for you, do it. 

    Mach Creative


  5. Avoid business meetings the day you land: Sometimes we can't avoid them, but try to arrange for at least one day to get some rest, clear your head, and become familiar with your surroundings. In fact, I urge clients to avoid even making important business decisions until they return to a feeling of balance and calm.

  6. Remember that you are the face of your company—and your country: Learn as much as possible about the places you're visiting, including culture, business environment; and expectations in terms of food, alcohol, and etiquette. Ask for coaching. Humility is key to leadership, and asking your colleagues to give you appropriate advice—and to tell you when you've made a mistake—will earn their respect as well strengthen your relationship with them. 

–Susan Mach, PhD

Susan Mach, PhD, is a communication coach, trainer, and strategist. She teaches management communication part time at major NYC-area business schools, and investment research report writing at NYSSA.

As an impartial, nonprofit forum for the finance and banking industries NYSSA encourages discussion and debate among its member and other professionals. Commentaries, however, should be taken as the sole opinion of the author(s) and not of NYSSA. If you would like to submit a commentary to the Finance Professional's Post, send your article to the editor.

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