I just got back last night from an enjoyable trip to work with a new global team meeting face to face for the first time in the north of Scotland. We worked on many of the classic issues of working in complex and distributed teams but the venue made an important difference.
The castle we held the meeting in had no mobile phone coverage, no TV and, whilst there was internet connection the atmosphere of the place discouraged logging on (for me at least).
The impact of this was noticeable:
- Fewer distractions – people were able to focus more of their time and attention on both the work and the valuable face to face time with their new colleagues.
- More time and focus on relationships – I attend a lot of meetings where people have very little face to face time to build relationships and get to know their colleagues (things that are hard to do remotely) yet constantly spend their breaks, lunch and evenings connecting through email or phone to remote colleagues and missing the opportunity. I am pleased to say that did not happen this week at all.
As a result the team relationships seemed to gel much more quickly than usual, the team had time and attention span to get to know each other.
Face to face time is valuable and scarce in complex teams – when you are with your remote colleagues, please use it wisely.
P.S. the extensive whiskey library at the castle (used responsibly) also helped.