Updated: Jan 13
As a CEO or executive leader are you or some of your team feeling disconnected from your global leadership team? Are there people you used to connect with when you travelled, but now do not see or speak to? Especially if they are in another country? The last 12 months has seen us completely rethink, re-engineer, and redevelop the way that we communicate with each other. With a huge rise in online meetings communication and business practices, the Zoom, Skype, Google Meet meeting has become the norm.
I have noticed that some of the global leaders I coach and their companies are going to significantly reduce travel in the future even when we can fly and the vaccine is in place. This is saving money, saving our carbon footprint, and maybe even saving the world. However, what is the price of this reduction in face-to-face contact putting on the social connectivity we have with each other within a company business and with our clients?
We have learned to have effective meetings across the globe in order to ensure our business is kept running, but a common issue which has been re-occurring in my senior level coaching sessions has been that there is a focus on communication technically, about business within meetings. Understandable right? What appears to now be missing is that lunch, dinner, watercooler chat which people have when they leave the meeting and move outside of the office.
Research by Loughborough University in 2015 discovered 31 positive aspects of meeting face to face compared to telephone and email. However, how does this compare to a video call? There is almost no research which has been published this year yet showing this as a comparison. Could this be a substitute?
When brainstorming ideas with coaching clients, the idea of having a virtual dinner, drinks or just coffee outside of a set meeting with an agenda, seemed foreign and quite honestly to some, just not worth the time when you already have ‘Zoom fatigue’. However, what will the effect of this lack of purely social and non-work-related interaction will have on relationships moving forward?
Many business relationships are built via dinners and drinks, building rapport and trust on a personal level outside of the workplace. The technical side of sales and business will always be essential. ‘Can you give me technically what I need?’ Is one question. However, ‘Do I want to work with you along on a long-term basis, and do I trust you?’ is a different question. These are questions that are usually answered when people step outside of the agenda of the business meeting into a social context.
If this is the way your business is moving forward and you find yourself now avoiding travel for efficiency and cost saving, here are some of the suggestions that my clients have come up with to maintain social connectivity outside of a formalised meeting agenda. These have been working really well to create and maintain rapport and communication on a social and personal level with clients, colleagues and the remainder of their businesses.
Reconnect with people you haven’t spoken with for a while but used to meet up with internationally
Send out a meeting request to have an informal chat with people you would normally meet within a business when you travel, but are not normally involved in your day-to-day meetings. This can just help you feel more reconnected to the remainder of the business, and you never know you might find something out that’s interesting for you about them on a personal level or what’s happening within the company on a different level.
Set an “no agenda” one-to-one or group personal catch up
This may seem annoying to some people at first, and I know there has been resistance from many parties. However once they are on the call and actually talking to someone about something which isn’t completely related to their day-to-day, it’s been innovative, creative, and has had great benefits to the people carrying these out on a more regular basis.
Arrange a virtual dinner with drinks
This was completely kicked out of the park by many of my clients to start. It seems like a waste of time. Especially infringing on the evenings. However, having that social gathering, where everyone is informally dressed, and has an informal surrounding has again created rapport, creativity, and a cohesiveness within teams. Some companies have even been globally ordering food in where they can for their teams.
Just take time out for a virtual coffee
Seems simple, but again no agenda is required and this can be a 30 minute meeting for a chat.
Set up social groups virtually
These are for sharing photos, videos, and more personal, out of work Activities that people are carrying out during their working week.
Remember to be inclusive
Some people just don’t find it is easy to interact virtually as they do in person. Great leaders are aware of this and will be sophisticated in including those that do not appear to be as verbal or visual as others. Remember the social interaction that some people may demonstrate in face-to-face meetings might be very different from online meetings. Be sure to notice, and bring these people into the conversations strategically
Ensure that you and your teams take at least a 10 minute break between each zoom meeting.
Get up, walk around, change state, move away from your computer, or do something completely different. This gives you the time to reframe your thought process and move from meeting to meeting, giving your full attention to the person that you’re speaking to next. Mindfulness is great for two minutes in between meetings as a mental palate cleanser and refresh. The next person you have chosen to make that meeting deserves your full attention So make sure that they have it.
It is very important to remember that we are at work for most of our lives and the people we connect with daily have become our friends. That brief conversation we used to have when we visited our head office in another country at the time may have been a fleeting chat, but now missing, is an essential part of personal development, relationship or confidence building. Keeping those essential personal relationships alive for the ongoing development, unity and strength of the global business team is an essential part of coaching through to success.
Caroline Langston is the Founder of Successful Consultants Ltd, an Executive, Personal and Career Development Coaching company in Hong Kong and New York. She is also the Founder of recruitersgiveback.org a nonprofit providing free information and coaching to people who are unemployed. Caroline is dedicated to coaching people for success and happiness in their careers and lives. She is degree qualified with a Certificate in Professional Coaching from the ICF, Certificate in Team Coaching from the EMCC. Also further certifications in Neuro Linguistic Programming at Master Practitioner and Coach level.www.successCL.comwww.recruitersgiveback.org