Curiosity is a good thing, especially when it comes to personal growth and your career! Last year I asked colleagues and customers to consider providing me feedback for my year-end review. It was a bold move, but I was interested in what they would say and how I could improve. You see, my role is unique on the global communications team. I am responsible for the Celanese intranet and manage the editorial calendar. On a daily basis, I work together with team members in Budapest, Frankfurt and Shanghai to share company news. Based on their feedback, I was challenged to consider working on some non-Dallas projects and learn from my colleagues in other regions. So, I prepared a summary to share with my boss.
I have always had a healthy fear of performance reviews, but with our new approach to employee performance, I was optimistic that this year’s discussion would ease my discomfort. During my review, my boss and I had a great dialogue. When the time seemed right, I took a risk and asked if it would be possible for me to go to Europe. She thought about it and smiled in agreement, telling me about a global communications rotation program the team began a few years ago. The program gives the visiting employee and the hosting teams the opportunity to work together on short-term collaborative projects to better understand what it means to be on a global team. This was great news!
I wish I could say it was easy from that point on…to just get on a plane and fly half way around the world, but it wasn’t. Asking was the first step. Now I had to follow through and go. Even though my boss and family were supportive, I wrestled with being away from my two young children. I knew it would be a valuable experience, but two weeks was a long time. After a few months had passed, I took the plunge and bought the airplane ticket before I changed my mind!
I began my visit in Budapest, home to our European shared services center. The average age at the site is 32, so I fit right in. I worked with my colleagues there to launch a new Facebook page to promote the company in Budapest. We had 100 Likes by the end of the first day. I helped troubleshoot issues and provided guidance based on my previous experience with Celanese’s corporate Facebook page. In addition to this launch, I worked together with one of our team’s technical experts to find out how I could leverage an email template he had created locally for some of the global communications I work on. I brainstormed with my other colleague on an idea she had and helped her write an intranet story. I met with site management to socialize the new Facebook page and to learn more about what their departments do. It didn’t take long for me to realize I needed to get out of my cube and into their world. The trip developed a deeper level of empathy in me for them.
For the second week, my Budapest colleagues traveled with me to Sulzbach, the company’s European headquarters. I joined the European communications team for their mid-year meeting and participated in their annual CSR project, the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge. I helped with social media coverage and later wrote a blog about the event. Our Europe communications manager took us on a tour of the Industrial Park. The time I spent in Germany raised my awareness of the company’s rich history there.
This experience helped me to learn how to listen and how to articulate myself better. I felt empowered to share my knowledge more freely in-person. I appreciated my team members’ creativity and attention to detail. I returned to Dallas with a list of new collaboration opportunities, including less email and more phone calls and helping to organize more cross-team knowledge sharing sessions.