I have never really understood why a certain part of the USA is called the Midwest. Moreover, I am not really sure which states constitute the Midwest. And yes. The second statement may well explain the first.
But I do know some things for sure about the Midwest. It can be brutally cold in the winter. It can be amazingly hot in the summer. Air travel is notoriously unreliable all year (see above about weather). Most everyone you meet is incredibly hospitable.
I was in the Midwest last week. All of the above applied (apart from the summer weather). I was delayed so long at Chicago airport that I could have researched the definition of Midwest…but rather I caught up with email…and sleep, whilst making sure I didn’t miss my eventual flight departure.
I was in the US for meetings with one of our partners, and also to visit a couple of our research locations. It was an excellent visit. Tiring and cold. Engaging and rewarding.
I often end up calling in remotely to meetings. It is virtually impossible to be present every time…no matter how much I would like it to be so. Being present in person is very different and, last week, allowed me to schedule additional high value meetings. Relationships underpin everything we do…and are one of the most rewarding investments we can make. Team meetings, one-to-one meetings, breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings are priceless…although they do make for long days.
I say a lot in these meetings. It’s a long way to come to not contribute. But I always make sure I listen more. A lot of what I say are questions. Questions can be a great way to contribute whilst still being able to listen and learn as much as possible. My big desire when I meet with partners is to understand what they want…their priorities, their focus. The number one focus for their company in 2015. Whatever that is, our role is to help them achieve and deliver.
It is often the same thing. To deliver their projects and portfolio. It is never to save money. Or to invest in technology. But it always involves growing and developing people. Money and technology are important parameters of course, but the priority is only ever the projects…and the people. The project performance defines the success of the year. The people define the success of the company. We work to deliver the projects. We work with the people.
At the end of the week, I visited one of our Midwest sites and was invited to have lunch with the joint Integration team. We are only a couple of weeks away from the crucial shareholder vote on the proposed merger of our two companies. Integration planning is well underway…and well on target. It is exciting, and I was excited to meet the teams. As I walked to where lunch was scheduled, I wondered what I was looking for, and what I would find.
I sat down next to one of the senior leaders from the other company, I observed the lunchtime scene. Engagement. Laughter. Deep and animated conversations. I had seen what I was looking for. Situations were being resolved. Opportunities were being seized. Potential was being created. Enthusiasm was rampant. People were passionate. And people define the success of any company.
My own conversation was superb (for me at least). I shook hands with a leader. I heard thoughts. Listened to ideas. Recognised leadership. Saw vision. Was inspired by science. Left lunch happy. And felt hungry for more.
I was still happy as I travelled home that evening. I am still hungry this morning…