This article originally ran on May 21, 2021
Being normal doesn’t change the world these days.
In today’s volatile and unpredictable marketplace, a travel advisor’s ability to rise above the competition depends on his or her's willingness to embrace change and explore new ways of looking at challenges.
Because let’s face it, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many.
This is what it means to be a “shift disturber,” said workplace trainer, motivational speaker and CEO of BizXcel Inc. Gary Gzik, addressing nearly 200 travel advisors with The Travel Agent Next Door at a virtual networking event on Thursday (May 20).
The travel industry is rapidly changing and travel agents need to pay attention to what is going on, a pumped-up Gzik told attendees.
Change, he said, has been “the only constant" during the pandemic.
“The world is busy worlding,” Gzik said. “It’s doing what it’s gonna do and it’s not waiting for you or I to keep up with it. It’s going to keep changing.”
The world has always been “worlding,” even before COVID-19, he explained.
“But if there’s one thing this pandemic has taught us, it’s that we can’t sit back and be complacent. We need to be vigilant. We need to be moving.”
It’s a willingness to “shift” that will ultimately make travel advisors stand out and add value to their customers and to their lives.
Shifts can be small and large, Gzik said, and travel pros must be ready and willing to make both.
“If we’re putting so much energy into trying to be who we were before, we’re not shifting. I think we’re losing opportunity,” he said. “If the world is changing, we can’t use the same rules that we used before. We can’t run our businesses the same way.”
So, what can travel advisors do to put energy into making better choices and adapt better habits?
What does it take to become a bonafide “shift disturber?”
Gzik shared his advice to help agents get on course.
Opportunities are found by practicing curiosity while trusting one’s own imagination.
As Gzik put it: “Curiosity asks the question of ‘why?’ but it’s imagination that asks ‘what if?’”
Advisors that are only looking at the travel industry – one of the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic – in a certain way, and fixating on that, they risk missing out on opportunities in their “peripheral” because they’re not aware of them or seeking them out, Gzik said.
Welcome different perspectives
Old and current ways of thinking can make problems even harder to solve, Gzik explained.
“You and I may want to build the best business possible for ourselves and for our customers…but if we don’t apply different ways of thinking, we may just get frustrated,” he said.
Challenge the status quo
Which leads to this point: gaining a fresh perspective on a problem involves reaching out to others. And that doesn’t necessarily mean others within the travel industry.
Travel advisors have to be ready to transition from good to great, from ordinary to extraordinary, he said.
“We have to challenge ourselves to fight mediocrity and complacency,” he said. “We don’t want to get stuck running in circles – because the problem with running in circles is that you get very busy.”
This can lead to confusion, Gzik warned, because “busyness does not mean good business. It just means that you’re really busy.”
Unlocking creativity is critical to success, he stressed.
“We sometimes need to rethink things so we can get better results,” he said.
Be a lifelong learner
Shift disturbers understand that there are two “very dangerous” words that can block creativity and innovation: “Yeah, but…”
“The minute we say ‘yeah, but…’ we’ve already cut out the opportunity for great, new ideas,” Gzik said. “We should be thinking ‘yeah, and…’”
It’s also normal to feel scared or nervous when trying out a new idea, he said.
“If your stomach isn’t flipping, then you’re not being creative. You’re going back to old ways of thinking,” Gzik said.
Being a lifelong learner is about learning new technical skills, keeping up soft skills, staying flexible and adaptable, not worrying about looking silly and allowing yourself to “fail forward.”
“It’s OK to fail. It means you tried something new. As long as you learn from what you’ve tried, you’re learning to fail forward,” he said. “You have to be prepared to be wrong once in a while.”
Find the opportunities
Finding new opportunities comes down to the energy you put into your life, work and customers because it “fuels the lens we look through,” Gzik said.
This dictates whether you’re looking at the world through a lens of obligation…or opportunity.
To make yourself and company better, “put energy into change,” he said, and look for opportunities in adversity.
Gzik’s motivational talk was part of a series of activities TTAND is hosting for its partners throughout May to mark Travel Agent Month.
“We truly believe that our partners deserve more than just a day to celebrate their hard work. The past year has been challenging and we want to make sure they know just how valued they are,” said TTAND Founder Flemming Friisdahl earlier this month.
Friisdahl, who also spoke Thursday, echoed Gzik’s message about change being normal and important.
“It’s constantly happening and it’s something we want to stay ahead of,” Friisdahl told attendees.
He also stressed the importance of teamwork both during and after the pandemic.
“We see agents in small communities who are top performers and they’re all working together to make everybody stronger,” Friisdahl said. “It really benefits everybody.”
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