For many years I have been partnering with an organization to provide leadership training for many different industries.
As with any long-term collaboration, we sometimes disagree or view the customer challenges from different perspectives. If we end up being on opposite pages of thinking, we talk it through to come up with a solution that we both could live with. But recently things started to change. There was a clean sweep of leadership in the organization and before I realized what had happened I started dealing with an entire new group of “names.”
I describe the new leaders as “names” because that is all I had to go on. I had no faces to connect to the “names”. The once close relationship I had enjoyed with this organization seemed to be fading and I became very frustrated.
What was missing here? How could I get to know these new leaders and build a relationship that I once had with this organization?
It then hit me. I needed to meet these new leaders face-to-face for them to see who I was and what made me thrive and for me to get to know what excites them.
It took awhile to set up a date because the new leaders all wanted to meet me. I actually became concerned at one point as they kept changing the meeting day. But when I arrived they all greeted me with smiles and apologized for changing up the date as they all wanted to be available to connect with me face-to-face.
The magic began.
As we sat around a conference table listening intently to what everyone had to share, it became clear that we all cared about each other. They wanted to hear about my experiences with the previous leaders and what I would change. I was thrilled to hear about their new vision and mission. I walked out feeling excited and looking forward to our follow-up plan to involve the other trainers.
What changes when leaders meet face-to-face?
WALLS ARE BROKEN DOWN
The moment I entered their new facility (and yes they had just moved) I felt a calmness come across me. I no longer had to visualize where they all worked or how professional the new offices were. I was shaking hands with the partners I only knew from our emails and phone calls. What a relief. The tension in our relationship started to melt away. They were all amazing and put me at ease immediately.
REAL EMOTIONS CAN BE SEEN
For someone like me who finds it helpful to view people’s facial expressions and body language, there is nothing more important than seeing the non-verbal cues. When emotions are revealed in real time:
AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP IS REVEALED
Before entering into this face-to-face situation, I wondered what these new leaders actually knew about me. I tried to imagine what their leadership skills looked like. When we can’t put a face to an action or decision we sometimes jump to conclusions. And not always positive ones. I could hear from their thoughts and words how committed they were to working together. They were finally real leaders to me.
A FUTURE COLLABORATION CAN EMERGE
After spending a few hours sharing and dreaming and laughing, it became clear that we were ready to move full steam ahead with our collaboration. When we could banter back and forth and show each other how valuable we each meant to one another, the future seemed limitless. We were energized to have focus groups with the rest of the trainers and cultivate a true joint venture.
How have face-to-face meetings helped your leadership grow and change?