Pandemics don’t just bring people together – sometimes they pull them apart. Those of us in international business have spent years building professional relationships across the globe, tapping into overseas networks for expertise and local perspectives. These relationships are part of our success and enrich our professional lives.
What does global business look like when we’re all stuck at home? One-on-one conversations, business travel and spontaneous water cooler discussions have been replaced by conference calls, webinars and Zoom meetings. We’re missing the in-person support of our network. It’s like living on a fast food diet – our immediate needs are filled but it’s not very nutritious over the long term.
Connecting during COVID-19
For leaders, it’s a particularly crucial time to have a support network. Staff will look to you for guidance about the future and reassurances about the security and safety of their jobs. During the early days of the Great Recession I needed a safe space for frank discussions with my colleagues about business activity levels and potential future actions. We formed a mutual aid group and scheduled an hour each week to speak confidentially. Those conversations sustained us during a very uncertain time. If you’ve been doomscrolling or just need the benefit of a different perspective, reach out to your network and form your own business support group.
While your business is staying safe, you’ll want to take advantage of modern communication tools. Having hosted many webinars and taught Global Logistics courses on-line, I can say that video conferencing is a great tool but does not replicate the give and take of in-person meetings. At best, it trades dialogue for equal access. The chat function equalizes the ability of everyone to contribute to meetings – no more being interrupted by the loudest person in the room! – and for many is less intimidating than speaking up. Use this intrinsic strength to gain a broader perspective.
Video conferencing can also foster one-on-one collaboration across time zones. Instead of meeting in person, block a video conference “meeting room” for a few hours and work online with a colleague. This is a great way to create global sales pitches or review sales pipelines. You’ll be able to see one another, share computer screens and work together on a virtual whiteboard – without travel.
Replace MBWA in your office with a virtual “daily huddle” where each team member discusses what they are working on and what resources or help they need. You can even do a daily huddle across your entire international network, fostering a sense of community. Ask everyone to switch on their cameras – much communication will get lost without body language. Keep things fresh by rotating call responsibilities so that everyone has a chance to moderate or lead the meeting.
Connecting while apart is a challenge – let us know how we may connect with you. We’re here to support your global business goals.
Baker Logistics Consulting Services, Inc.