Last week was tiring. Nine hours on a plane apparently full of families with small children, followed by four days getting up at 4:00am, working all day and going to bed around 10:00pm. It was hot. And humid. And stimulating. And engaging. And inspiring. And enjoyable. And good. I loved it. Life is good. I love life.
I always find big global meetings – with colleagues from all over the world – to be an invigorating experience. These are great opportunities to refresh and create personal networks.
I enjoy these meetings. I am always present. I have long since learned to avoid sitting in the room but not really being there. I listen, I ask questions and I seek out presenters for discussion. It is a very long way to go, and an awful lot of time to commit, so I may as well make the most of it.
The networking is enjoyable and valuable – my main challenge being to make new contacts as well as connecting with colleagues who I know well, but haven’t seen for a year. I met many new colleagues last week. I also missed several old colleagues.
Overall, this week was different from last year. More people knew more. More about each other, about our businesses, our customers, our strengths and our opportunities. Inevitably this increased knowledge and understanding led to different conversations and discussions.
So I like the networking…but for the meeting to be of real value for me, I have to find something in the presentations and sessions that intrigues me…or that sets me thinking in a different way. And it can be hard to predict which that presentation or session will be…which – of course – is half the fun.
This year we had excellent sessions on our people, our large projects and our impact on patients. Everyone seemed excited and impressed by our progress overall, on our strategic framework and our strategy. This was excellent – of course – but this wasn’t what excited me most.
The highlight for me was the chance to add someone new to my network. For the sake of anonymity, let’s just call him John from our North Carolina Office. John is someone I haven’t ever had chance to work with before, or even talk to, let alone hear them present. It may also be that John wouldn’t have sat next to me for lunch on the first day if he knew that being in my network means I now feel able to ask him anything, and to offer my opinions on most everything.
But what impressed me most was how honest, passionate and committed John was. How genuinely interested he was in what I (and others) thought, asked or suggested. How clearly he listened when he interacted. Many people may hear what you say but not that many really listen.
John even appeared on the agenda a couple of times this week and used those moments to share his views on our leadership and our people…our opportunities and our challenges. Some I immediately related to. Some I found myself initially less sure about. But they were always thought provoking and stimulating…were based on understanding and desire…and were shared with passion and commitment, energy and belief.
It was also quickly apparent that John was very eager to learn, that he wanted us to succeed, that he was passionate helping us, that he wants our people to be happy and engaged. I was struck by how empowering this felt – to know that we have colleagues like John on our side!
I left with a strong feeling of being engaged, inspired and energised.