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500 words on… Inspiration from my first 3 post-COVID offsite meetings

By Nigel Robinson

My first overarching emotion is that it is a huge relief to be back in person for leadership team meetings. Of course, not everyone is able to do this right now depending on the geographic spread of team members and company protocols related to COVID-19 risk management. But where this is possible, it is certainly worth the effort to bring teams together to reconnect, reenergize and realign for the future.

Throughout the pandemic, everyone has done their best to maintain their cultures and to drive business performance via Zoom or Teams meetings. Yet we all know that something does not feel quite the same in these interactions that are great for transactional conversations but poor in helping to bond us to our fellow humans: You can only do so many online escape rooms in one lifetime in an attempt to change that paradigm and most people are exhausted from having their work and private lives smushed into one unending loop! We are thankfully beginning to emerge from the lockdown – so now is the time for leaders to bring their teams together to reset.

Having now had the privilege to support a few leadership teams in their first in-person meetings, my observations are as follows:

  1. Simply spending quality time with fellow team members is a blessing. Many teammates have been onboarded during the pandemic and this is the first opportunity for everyone to get together and make those important connections. For those who knew each other prior to COVID there is palpable relief at getting to work with each other in person again and to reignite personal relationships that make the difference in any business performance. And for those that have never physically met, this time together is invaluable.
  1. Fractured relationships can be mended quickly when people are in the same room. Many cross-functional interdependencies experienced increased friction during COVID with Zoom meetings and emails becoming the norm to resolve the natural tensions that exist between commercial, marketing and supply chain, for example. Hitting the proverbial ‘reset button’ with these teams can only really be done in person via a well facilitated meeting that creates the safe space for such healing conversations to flourish. I am amazed at how much friction has built up over time – and also pleasantly surprised at how quickly these can be resolved in the right setting.
  1. As ever, offsite meetings based around a properly curated agenda will maximize the investment of time and energy. Delegates should leave the meeting inspired to take their teams and business to the next level of performance, knowing that they are aligned with their team members on the most important priorities. Simple and effective COVID protocols will enable a safe and fruitful meeting that can include well-thought-out teambuilding activities to complement the important business conversations.

In summary, it is easy to underestimate the mental health challenges that have developed due to remote working from our kitchen tables with limited human contact. Now that in-person meetings are becoming possible leaders should seize the opportunity to bring their teams together in order to reconnect, reenergize and realign on priorities for the coming year. Now is the time to make plans and build excitement for the post-COVID world.