What Changes When Leaders Meet Face-To-Face?

For many years I have been partnering with an organization to provide leadership training for many different industries. As with any long-term collaboration, we sometimes disagree or view the customer challenges from different perspectives. If we end up being on opposite pages of thinking, we talk it through to come up with a solution that we both could live with. But recently things started to change. There was a clean sweep of leadership in the organization and before I realized what had happened I started dealing with an entire new group of “names.” I describe the new leaders as “names” because that is all I had to go on. I had no faces to connect to the “names”. The once close relationship I had enjoyed with this organization seemed to be fading and I became very frustrated.

What was missing here? How could I get to know these new leaders and build a relationship that I once had with this organization?

It then hit me. I needed to meet these new leaders face-to-face for them to see who I was and what made me thrive and for me to get to know what excites them.

It took awhile to set up a date because the new leaders all wanted to meet me. I actually became concerned at one point as they kept changing the meeting day. But when I arrived they all greeted me with smiles and apologized for changing up the date as they all wanted to be available to connect with me face-to-face.

The magic began.

As we sat around a conference table listening intently to what everyone had to share, it became clear that we all cared about each other. They wanted to hear about my experiences with the previous leaders and what I would change. I was thrilled to hear about their new vision and mission. I walked out feeling excited and looking forward to our follow-up plan to involve the other trainers.

What changes when leaders meet fact-to-face?


The moment I entered their new facility (and yes they had just moved) I felt a calmness come across me. I no longer had to visualize where they all worked or how professional the new offices were. I was shaking hands with the partners I only knew from our emails and phone calls. What a relief. The tension in our relationship started to melt away. They were all amazing and put me at ease immediately.


For someone like me who finds it helpful to view people’s facial expressions and body language, there is nothing more important than seeing the non-verbal cues. When emotions are revealed in real time:

  • Leaders can react more appropriately
  • Leaders don’t have to guess or put their own spin on how someone else feels
  • Communication is clearer and more open
  • Honest relationships can be formed


Before entering into this face-to-face situation, I wondered what these new leaders actually knew about me. I tried to imagine what their leadership skills looked like. When we can’t put a face to an action or decision we sometimes jump to conclusions. And not always positive ones. I could hear from their thoughts and words how committed they were to working together. They were finally real leaders to me.


After spending a few hours sharing and dreaming and laughing, it became clear that we were ready to move full steam ahead with our collaboration. When we could banter back and forth and show each other how valuable we each meant to one another, the future seemed limitless. We were energized to have focus groups with the rest of the trainers and cultivate a true joint venture.

How have face-to-face meetings helped your leadership grow and change?

(Image Credit: Pixabay)

8 thoughts on “What Changes When Leaders Meet Face-To-Face?

  1. There was a period in my career when I was on a series of virtual teams. A couple people here and there were co-located but for the most part, in our local area, we were all flying solo. We sent instant messages, emails and had phone calls (this was before Hangouts or Skype was super popular). Finally, the senior leader gathered the entire remote team for a three-day meeting in Dallas. It was amazing. Trust skyrocketed, relationships deepened and we were better able to resolve conflicts too. It sustained us for a long time… until the next face to face. Not only for small businesses with their customers, face to face meetings are essential for teams that are not co-located yet strive to be high functioning in our virtual world.

    Sharing! Thanks, Terri!


  2. Great article! I tend to start thinking what a person looks like as soon as I see their email and name. Once I chat with them on the phone, another image begins to emerge…often, none of those images are accurate. There is something visceral that happens when we sit face to face with people…eyes meet, smiles are noticed, nuances in humor and behavior all become part of the whole person. Non-verbal cues are incredibly important when reading people and give us both positive and negative feedback. My B.S. detector is on full alert because people can say anything, but they are leaking all sorts of information in other ways…

  3. I couldn’t help but laugh as you describe what you think a person might look like based on their words. I do the same thing and like you I am often wrong. I find that especially when a relationship with a colleague or customer seems frustrating it can be so helpful to meet them face-to-face and bring in our body language and facial expressions.
    Thanks so much LaRae for adding to the dialogue!

  4. What a fantastic story! I have seen magic happen too when people on teams finally connect and get to hear each other’s voices and concerns in person. All of a sudden, things that may have frustrated them in the past when they interacted with a co-worker, no longer matter. When we meet face-to-face we can truly cultivate deeper relationships and we want to do more for each other.

    Thanks so much Alli for sharing your great insights with us!

  5. Yes, Cynthia! When we have those face-to-face meetings we are able to read each other more clearly and understand why someone may be acting a certain way. A sense of openness and trust appear when we face one another.

    Thanks so much Cynthia!

  6. Great Article Terri! Being back in the U.S. and in an area that we have not lived for 22 years – I’m enjoying those in person moments at an extreme level!

    …And smiling at LaRae’s comment – thinking of times I finally met people in real life and they didn’t look a thing like I thought they would!

  7. Welcome back Chery! So happy to hear you made it safely.

    Yes face-to-face meetings are so invigorating as they help leaders read the messages from others so much more clearly. There is a natural back and forth that enriches conversations and brings people together.

    Thanks Chery for chiming in!

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