This year Weber Shandwick brought back No Boundariesa program that provides a stipend and five extra PTO days to employees to pursue a personally and professionally enriching experience. Katherine Hauser, a member of Minneapolis’ strategy team, was selected for the program. Here is a recap of her experience in her own words:

When applying for the program, I wanted to find something that would feed my brain and soul by combining two of my favorite things: international travel and structured learning (sign me up for a lecture on any topic, any day and I’ll be a happy camper).

I applied to attend a strategic thinking course put on by APG, the authoritative resource for planning and strategy, in London. Needless to say I was beyond thrilled when selected. This workshop, designed specifically for junior to mid-level planners, was the ideal complement to the mentorship and training available at Weber, and an opportunity to network and learn with fellow emerging planners. In addition to the course, I set out to explore as much of London as I could.

I came back from my experience armed with a dozen organizational tools and models to focus inputs and sharpen outputs. However, my No Boundaries adventure also taught me so much more – here’s my top three learnings:

  • Traveling alone is empowering, and fun. As an extrovert, I was worried I’d be lonely during my week abroad. It was incredibly empowering and fun to explore the city alone, at my own pace, going to all the places that interested me. I was delighted by how friendly strangers were, and enjoyed meeting really interesting humans along my adventures.
  • We can all be better communicators by identifying and shifting our level of listening. There are four levels of listening that map to intents and drive outcomes:
    • Downloading is passively listening and confirming what you already believe. This is when you’re on your laptop in a meeting, thinking you already know what’s being shared, so you’re not paying close attention.
    • Factual listening/debating is when you’re half listening while thinking of the next brilliant point you want to make. You have your mind made up and are waiting for the next opportunity to share your perspective. This might be when you anticipate a difference of opinion with a colleague and are already planning your next move to win the point.
    • Empathetic listening is listening to understand. Here, you’re considering other perspectives, “what’s it like for you?” and seeing through another person’s eyes. This is a very common listening level of “attentive” listening. It’s not bad, but there’s a step further.
    • Listening to create new possibilities – it’s going into a conversation thinking “I might not be right, and I’m listening with a completely open mind, heart and will.” This is incredibly challenging, because we naturally want to assert our position in a strong (always respectful) manner. This type of listening empowers change and drives innovation. This framework was particularly impactful to me, and made me think about how I can be an intentional communicator through listening.
  • Being the only American in the room makes you the official nation’s representative. I’ve never been the sole American in a room before, so it was interesting to be the nation’s representative for every conversation that touched on the States – from President Trump’s Tweets to explaining who Colin Kaepernick is in light of the recent Nike campaign. It was dizzying, amusing and occasionally frustrating, but always thought-provoking.

One more bonus learning: feed your brain. As the course instructor said,

“Training is expensive, but try ignorance.”