Thoughts on Leadership: The Value of Meeting

By Gino Blefari

This week, for the first time in more than a year, my travels find me in Austin, Texas, kicking off Monday as a presenter for The Realty Alliance General Membership Meeting at the JW Marriott Hotel. I spoke on three specific aspects of the West Coast offense for running a real estate company: philosophy, accountability partners and the importance of having a system. On Tuesday, I attended the Berkshire Hathaway Energy Weekly Executive Team Meeting and today, I participated (virtually) in the exciting launch of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Atlantic Portugal, a fantastic brokerage that will help expand Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ ever-expanding footprint throughout Portugal.

But let’s travel back from Portugal to Austin, where I spent most of the week at The Realty Alliance meeting. It was the very first in-person conference I’ve attended since March 2020, and the experience reminded me about the value of connection and how readily ideas can be exchanged during COVID-safe, face-to-face interactions.

Steve Jobs, whose iPod, iPad and iPhone arguably strengthened digital connections like no other technology had before, once said: “There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat. That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions.”

Of course, this meeting was far from spontaneous, but there is spontaneity in the very fact that you’re in a room with other people, subject to their comments, glances, body language and feedback. It’s an environment ripe for idea-generation, but as Jobs noted, the real value of a meeting comes from the hallway chat and dinners, the unplanned conversations between attendees. These discussions build camaraderie and help develop team chemistry in a way that is hard to replicate virtually.

Here are a few more benefits of in-person meetings:

Clearer communication. There’s something that can get lost in translation when you meet on Microsoft Teams or Zoom, or when you simply message on Slack. Team members might tune out because they aren’t occupying the same space or might get distracted by something offscreen. Also, subtle non-verbal cues are often missed with video meetings, which can lead to misinterpretation and confusion when communicating to a group of attendees or to your team. In person, commitment becomes more obvious, and the group is attentive to team members’ needs. As legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Individual commitment to a group effort: That is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

More opportunities to strengthen connections. When you’re in person, you can exhibit all the positive signs of a person willing and ready to connect. You can be friendly, maintain eye contact and project an optimistic self-image. You can also smile. Smiling is free and helps form an instant connection. While smiling sends a clear message about your positive state of mind, not smiling can be interpreted negatively as grumpiness, aloofness or anger.

And speaking of things that make me smile, I was fortunate to hear a guest speaker and best-selling author Patrick Lencioni present during the meeting. Lencioni wrote one of my favorite business books, “The Ideal Team Player.” He also devised the concept of humble, hungry and smart—the framework around which you should build and develop a team. The ideal team player is humble (generous and giving), hungry (intrinsically motivated by challenges) and smart (interpersonally aware and in possession of “people smarts”).

When we met in person, it was obvious that the attendees at this meeting had all the qualities of ideal team players. Nobody held back and ideas were able to be formulated without judgment. Lencioni famously said, “Great teams do not hold back with one another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses and their concerns without fear of reprisal.”

The vibe in the room at the JW Marriott Hotel was exactly what Lencioni described: a group of team players who are ideal leaders, sharing their thoughts to help us all grow.

So, what’s the message? While in-person meetings may not fully return for a while, this one reminded me just how valuable they can be. Ideas flow where people go, and your humble, hungry and smart team members can really show their value when given an opportunity to connect safely together.

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