During the general session and follow up panel discussion during this year’s Apple Leisure Group (ALG) Vacations’ virtual conference, Ascend 2020, Mike Rayburn lead a discussion on “What Now.” He focused on ways the travel industry, and travel advisors specifically, can pivot in order to succeed in this new Post-COVID-19 world.

He started the session by talking about “Unrealized Potential”—doing things in a new way. “How do we access that potential,” he asked the audience.

He noted how many companies have the notion of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Yet, he says, “Time breaks everything. If it’s working now, it likely won’t very soon. Look what happened 6 months ago. Time broke everything.”

Rayburn noted that things will return to normalcy at some point. However, he says, “Things will happen that are similar to before, but everything will change in one way or another. In the wake of massive disruption there is always massive opportunity.” But, “How do we find them? How do we do something about them?”

He said to succeed you have to adopt two mindsets to get the most out of what’s happening now.

  1. “It is your job to NOT get discouraged.” You need to share with others that there’s hope. You need to be the reassuring source in people’s lives.
  2. You need to Think Big— as you define big.

An Exercise to Help You Visualize Success

Then he had the audience go through an exercise. Here it is for you to do at home, too.

Close your eyes and think about what you do right now, the essence of your business, and your career, what you do for your clients and customers.

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Try this exercise to help you prepare for success.

Now, think big about that. Expand the vision. What else could it be? How big could it be? Doesn’t mean you’ll do this but expand your mind. Now get a new picture.

Now take the new picture and think even bigger. Get crazy, you’re not committed to this. Think larger.

Now that grand picture you have, think even bigger and expand what you can do and how you can serve your clients.

“Think of the size you want for your organization; what you can offer; get crazy,” he said, just think outside of the normal.

Now, what does that feel like? Open your eyes.

And realize you’re thinking small.

“Compared to what is possible, that third grand vision is small compared to what you and your team can do, “says Rayburn. “The limitation isn’t out there, it’s within you. When you imagine what’s possible, what’s possible will expand. You need to think differently, to think new of what is possible.”

3 Denominators for Success

Rayburn took this time to see what successful companies were doing to stay ahead of the curve, and remain successful. He looked within his own industry, as well as top well-known corporations. And he said what he found was that, many switched from “service providers to problem solvers.”

“As soon as COVID hit I went on research mode and studied my clients who were successful, as well as those who were not. I studied outside of my base who was successful and looked for a common denominator,” he says.

I found three denominators in organizations that are thriving and succeeding

  1. Discover Opportunities. From their front line of the people who are dealing with clients—front line managers, front line sales people, front line service providers. The key is to move from service provider to problem solver. Start to observe the questions your brain asks, the self talk. That self talk defines the quality of your life and all of your results.

He notes there will be “naysayers” the ones who complain and put up excuses. They’’ll say “it will take too much time, we’ve never done it, it costs too much.” And, you will have to respond, “But how about if we could, how would we do it? But what if we had to, how would we do it? One, it’s going to open up your opportunities. Two, it’s going to increase your results. Three, it’s going to upset them. So ask- what if? What if we COULD do that? This will allow you to discover what you didn’t have before.”

  1. Change Quickly. These successful companies he said, “get rid of the negativity and they change fast.” Change has been thrust upon us now. Organizations with an aversion to change are not making it. Those waiting will be left behind.

“There are people in your organization who will never be on board to change,” says Rayburn. “There are some who are resistance to change but are great members.” For them, you’ll have to “humanize the change.”

  1. Act Decisively. “You have to raise your risk tolerance,” says Rayburn. “Fear of what’s going to happen needs to go away. To succeed faster, you have to fail faster. A lot of folks want to think through and get rid of those but that doesn’t work. Succeed anyway. The moment you blame anything wrong in your business on anything else other than yourself you hand your power to those you don’t want to have it. This is the attitude, especially from leadership, needs to be developed. When you have the ‘succeed anyway’ approach, you will act decisively.

Rayburn tells advisors to think about, “What is it that you have but haven’t used? What is it that makes you good but keeps you from being great?”

He adds, “The people who are ready for change are the ones being most successful right now—within the last three months during the pandemic.”

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In order to get your team on board for change, you have to humanize the change for them.

Humanize the Change

In order to humanize the change for those employees who are resistant to change, but are great eployees, Rayburn suggests six ways for you to do that.

6 Ways to Humanize the Change:

  1. Show them the goodness of the result. Why you’re changing.
  2. Stay attentive to people’s needs—when things change some will have problems with that. Have a conversation, be open to what they need, if you’re sensitive to that they’re a lot more willing to come along for the change.
  3. As a leader you need to avoid the attitude of: “because I said so.” If you give them the “because I said so” it becomes a forced thing and force isn’t what you want, you want team unity. Be the one who reaches out in a coaching way rather than a demanding way.
  4. Acknowledge the good of the way the things have been. Many of your team members have been integral in creating or implementing the way things have been done in the past. They’re the implementers of the success you’ve had so far. You need to lift them up. That makes them feel good. And then you say, “Here’s why we are going to change from that because this could be even better,” adds Rayburn.
  5. Solve the problems before hand. We associate problems with change. As long as your people see change as problem, they’re going to be hard to bring a long. Sole what you can beforehand. At least discuss and acknowledge this could be a problem, but you’ll have their back as you change because change inevitably brings problems. And the problems are there to get you where you need to go.
  6. You need to be a respectable leader. You need to be someone who they look up to. Someone who they see always has their back. Someone who has the full picture in mind. Someone they respect in every other way. When they respect what you do, they’ll respect that you have their back and have the best interest of the organization at heart.

“That’s how you humanize the change,” says Rayburn about his six steps.

Be a Virtuoso

“There’s a purpose in what we do. Now, think about the way you spent your time over the last two weeks and answer this: ‘Are you driving with the breaks on?’”

Rayburn says that this tool is a way to act decisively as a way of life. He notes you need to become a “Virtuoso—someone of a mastery level skill; someone who wakes up in the morning making the choice for excellence. Most adults never make this decision, even successful ones. They rise to acceptable; what’s required, instead of moving on to become the personal best. The greatest impact that you’ll have, the greatest income that you’ll have happens between competent and virtuoso.” He adds that, the “opposite of virtuoso isn’t failure, it’s being competent.”

“What would it take for me to become a Virtuoso travel professional,” asks Rayburn.

He suggests for you to take a moment to do this exercise. At the top of a sheet of paper, write: What Would take to be a Virtuoso Travel Professional?

If you do this exercise:

  1. It won’t take more than 10 minutes
  2. You already know the answers
  3. It will change your life

Rayburn also notes the importance of continued professional development. “There hasn’t been a time that that’s more important than right now during the pandemic. Find someone who has done what you want to do and ask if they’ll mentor you a few times a week or month or be open to answer questions.”

Finally, he says, “The things going on in the world right now require you best. When people come to you with their travel needs, they want a Virtuoso on the other line.”

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