We work remotely. Like, really remotely. Portugal, Uruguay, Kenya, Scotland, Spain, the USA, and Colombia. There are only six in the team, but it is hard to pin Alejandra down to just one location.
When you work remotely, there are structures you can put in place. Project Management tools (we use Monday; how about you?), ring-fenced communication time, clear support, check-ins and all the rest of it.
It all works well, when the team know that they will be supported. There is not a week goes by that one of us is not experiencing something that is challenging us personally or professionally, and knowing that everyone around you has got your back is really vital to a strong team dynamic.
So why invest in face-to face time with the team if everything works so well remotely?
We know some remote teams that meet up only at annual events, like big conferences. To us, that feels like the event itself becomes the focus, and not the team. We also know some teams that get together only to socialize and let off steam. No work chat allowed. Sure, we get that, but again it feels like a missed opportunity.
We find that something in the middle is about right. We work together, we talk in depth about how we are doing and feeling, and yes, the wine does flow when all is said and done.
You see, to us, it is about consolidating the foundation of what makes a team really work, and also doing things face to face that really are much harder remotely.
This time, the geNEOus (formerly NEO Academy) Team gathered in Lisbon. Mark and Puri were sadly unable to be there in person, and Ashley's baggage was also unable to attend (how do airlines never seem to fix that?).
Dinner was had in Cascais, where we simply enjoyed the feeling of being back in each other's company, and eating some of that beautiful Portuguese seafood.
The next morning was real talk. No, that's not the name of a TV show- we actually call it that because it is. In our last reunion in Milan, the NEO Team experienced a workshop with a wonderful facilitator, in which we all felt supported to truly drop the work mask and reveal more about ourselves than any of us ever had in a professional setting.
We bonded deeply as a result, and the team became a family, but we know that families are not always functional. The mask is really easy to slip back on, and so when we are together, we make time to share, be authentic, and be vulnerable with each other. Sounds terrifying? Actually, it sets you free. When you have shared with each other, you will never be afraid to ask for help, or to offer it.
Imagine arriving in a team, and they tell you what the brand persona is, and expect you to somehow embody that in the way you work and communicate. Chances are, there will be a disconnect.
Our brand persona and values are co-created within and by our team. We have grown a lot in the last couple of years, and revisiting the brand through a series of exploratory and reflective activities, is a great way to understand how we all feel about the work we do, and what makes us unique.
We really underestimated the timing on this one, and this ended up becoming a long session. We shared the times we were inspired, where we felt fear and the weight of expectation, where we felt alone and what helped us push past that.
How we have grown, what we are proud of and who we think we have become. We realised that the work and home personas really no longer exist for us, and that we exist as ourselves in all that we do.
The brand, therefore, is a projection of what we each value, rather than a benign guide as to how we should behave and communicate. When we talk about brand integrity, it should always mean that what is projected externally is what is understood and embraced internally, and that can only come from creating it together. More on that to come.
We had to celebrate Ash's baggage finally arriving after two days, so yes of course we socialized, drank, ate, and made merry. Ash was so excited that she wore all her clothes at the same time, so it was lucky the temperature was somewhat chilly.
Just kidding, but when you are a close team, you can make jokes like this. What we are saying is that when we connect on the more personal levels first, we find the socializing so much more rewarding.
We even went to try a Game of Thrones escape room activity, which was a lot of fun, but also reminded us of how we collaborate, guide each other, ask for help and become better together than the sum of our parts. House geNEOus (formerly NEO Academy) may be small, but look what happened to the Lannisters.
We went to the LxFactory neighborhood in Lisbon at the end of the trip, to check whether any of us were secret hipsters. We're not. In the end, we are six people who have all become personally and professionally stronger and better as a result of being together, and if that is not worth coming together to celebrate and build on, then we don't know what is.