I write this knowing that I am stating my experience and I am certain there are many effective ways leaders are tackling this transition: reconnecting teams in a post pandemic world. Before I share what I did and what I learned, let me start by giving you a little background, which might sound familiar to many of you.
I lead a team of 14 highly experienced Business Development professionals from 6 countries on 3 continents. So, working remotely and collaborating in such a setting is not new to them. However, these are people, who love to interact directly with other people, especially customers, partners, and colleagues. They are fueled by conveying a message that excites and motivates them and then getting direct human responses. These are all things they have been heavily restricted from experiencing for over 2 years.
I am part of a fast growing and transforming organization based in Canada, due to our growth, I more than doubled the size of my team. This means, until recently, I had not met many members of my team in person and in other cases, not reconnected in over a year. Although I am blessed with an incredibly professional and resilient team, this came with the difficulties and adaptations you would expect.
So, as restrictions eased around the world, it was clear that getting everyone together was a priority. Since the last year included the merger with another product range, my official objective was to get the team together to establish a common vocabulary, understand our joint solutions and establish a basis of dialogue on strategy for the next year. But I also wanted to eliminate any silos that can obviously exist when you grow so quickly.
My initial thought was to highly structure the 4 days in a very coordinated and directive manner to make sure we cover all the essential topics. Since these are people who need to re-engage, learn, strategize, and drive towards deliverables, it makes sense, right? Wrong. I remembered something I had recently read: “People tend to trust those individuals who trust them”. After years of relative seclusion, I figured trusting the team to use this opportunity to freely engage professionally would be a better way to install an atmosphere of trust. So, I pivoted, and the overall message became: “We will get some training from engineering on our products and please come prepared to present your regional strategy and tactical plan”. That was it. No further direction, no templates, no more detailed instructions to follow.
In short, the results exceeded my expectations. Engagement was high, interest keen, and questions abounded. Team members who were not asked to prepare anything, came with presentations, and thorough reviews of their area of accountability. The diversity of presentation material created grounds to see similar problems from different perspectives and created dynamic and creative solutions. Another highlight was seeing people’s true personalities come out due to the less structured environment.
This culminated with a final moment on the last day when I stepped back for a moment and realized the entire team, who were strangers 4 days ago, are now hugging and chatting about personal and business matters as if longtime friends.
That felt like success in that moment and the ripple effect continues. Having been back a few weeks now, I already see the positive results in better communication, focus, and results.
“People tend to trust those individuals who trust them”. It works.