One week before a recent global summit with 20+ people from 10 different countries converging in Paris and we still don’t have a detailed agenda. But I’m not concerned. International travel is an investment for all involved so isn’t it right to plan out every detail to make sure every minute is dedicated to delivering some business objective? Years ago I would have answered in the affirmative but experience has shown me that there are three essential elements to any successful global engagement. I’ve learned what I believe is a better way by looking at how Start-ups and Freelancers achieve success.
These days, when technology enables us to work virtually with teams in many locations, traveling to meet in person is rare, especially for large corporations. Walk around any co-working space however and while you might see the lone entrepreneur pecking away on his or her computer, you will see far more small groups exchanging ideas. Start-up companies certainly leverage technology, but Start-ups and Freelancers spend most of their time together, or engaging and networking with others to make their ideas bigger.
Leaders that need to make a step change improvement in their business might take their cue from this trend. Bring your dispersed team together in a creative space for several days and don’t over plan the time. Beyond the logistics and setting clear objectives, a leader needs only to set the proper environment and a diverse group of people, dedicated to a common goal, can achieve transformative business objectives.
- Reinforce the power of the Face to Face Engagement. Unless you have a group of extreme extroverts, people are going to need a bit of help to fully engage. They have expectations, assumptions and apprehensions. If they have traveled from a distance, they are tired and English may not be their first language. Remind your team that they are a group of fellow human beings who have much in common despite their perceived differences. Give them forgiveness for standing up if they start to disengage from the agenda topic and consider setting ground rules regarding the use of computers and cell phones during the session.
- Engage people in Relationship Building. Some business leaders abhor the HR games that would have you choose a representative animal and tell others about it. But relationship building doesn’t need to be forced. Allow time for meaningful breaks, for non-working lunches and for ice breakers that get people talking. It is in these moments that people find commonalities or shared interests and objectives. These connections will have long lasting effects that make virtual working relationships successful.
- Set Simple but Stretching Objectives for your attendees. Most high achievers will have significant expectations of themselves to justify the investment of a Face to Face engagement. Creativity and energy spark action and action multiplies, as does the email that is going unattended during the meeting time. Without careful planning, people will head home with pages of actions they intend to take only to be derailed by the daily routine and fire-fighting. This is where the Power of Three is essential. Rather than a hundred actions, ask people to develop 3 (and only 3) goals by the end of the time together. Set an expectation that on the last day, every attendee will need to share their 3 goals using the SMARTER format (Specific, Measurable, Action Oriented, Risky, Time keyed, Exciting and Relevant). Three may seem insignificant but three Goals supported by 3 daily actions to deliver these big goals will result in significant achievement.
I don’t mean to imply that your agenda is completely without detail. Certainly some topics and prework is needed to inspire thinking. But rather than fill every minute, allow the team the flexibility to respond to the creativity that presents itself – it may be a far better way to deliver your business step change that what you initially had in mind.