Virtual vs in person meetings

Yesterday I arrived in Buenos Aires and attended meetings in the afternoon with a relatively new contractor who started with us in January to cover for the maternity leave of another employee. We started things off with a meeting at one of our clinical research sites, a well-known cardiovascular specialty center that is also a teaching hospital. Two prominent physicians met with us, along with their medical fellow (who does most of the actual work of entering patient data).

When I make an appearance now and then and travel here from far away, these physicians like to “talk research” with me and present ideas they have about new therapies and studies in which they enroll patients. It is an engaging and interesting discussion and I really enjoy the enthusiasm of these fellow researchers. They ask hard questions! Fortunately I was on my game, even after only 4 hours of sleep on the plane the previous night.

After the site visit, my contractor and I sat to have a late lunch, since I had skipped that in favor of getting to the site visit on time. We had time to visit and get to know each other in a casual environment. I learned more about her career path in this field. We have both been in clinical research for 11 years, and we both entered though a “side door” not knowing the field existed prior to entering.

Puerto Madero - view from hotel
View from my hotel in Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires

I work with an international team, with all of my direct reports living in other countries. We spend a lot of time on conference calls, corresponding via email and doing a lot of what I think of as virtual, rather than real-time communication. It is nice that electronic tools give us the flexibility to work remotely when necessary, and to come together as a team for our monthly operations meetings, for example.

I believe there is NO substitute for some old-fashioned, face-to-face, trust-building time with your coworkers. None at all. Video-conferencing can be helpful, and I am glad it exists. Looking people in the eye, and getting to absorb their gestures and body language is simply irreplaceable, especially when there may be language barriers.

My Spanish has improved greatly in the 11 years I have worked in a Latin American division, without question. But it still is my second language, not my first. Being able to know with real-time feedback whether communication is understood, or whether there is a gap, is SO much easier in person. It is also more relaxing, and you may not feel like you are “on stage” the way I sometimes do when I’m on video-conference.

For this reason, as well as many other cultural factors that are probably relevant to trust-building in Latino cultures, it is very important for me to have in person meetings to set the foundation for trust. There is something irreplaceable about real human contact, and there are certain messages that are easier to deliver in person. For this reason, even though travel makes me a bit weary, it is always worthwhile to make the journey.

Cheers, peeps! Happy Friday!

 

The packing list

Hi All,

I am leaving on a trip to Buenos Aires and Brasilia for the next week. It has been nearly 3 years since I have been to Argentina. It is one of the four main countries supported by my clinical research team, and we have quite a lot of studies and sites there. The journey is long and Delta only offers overnight flights, probably because it is easier to “manage” a plane full of people for 9 hours if they are mostly sleeping.

I am not so fond of traveling overnight. Typically I get about 3 hours of sleep on the 9 hour flight from ATL to EZE (if that) and I arrive tired and wired. But this trip is important. It is overdue. I have some atoning to do for neglecting the operational issues we have encountered over the past 2 years.

Sometimes doing more with less is impossible. We have to do LESS with less. We have to make decisions about which projects to cut, instead of pretending we can do it all, and then doing it very badly, instead of with high quality attention. Those decisions are difficult, but I believe they should involve an honest evaluation of our strengths and weaknesses, and a team-based approach to maximizing our contribution.

I may not agree with what the organization has decided to fund (or not fund). But I do have a responsibility to follow through, and make difficult decisions when the time comes. Limping along and pretending everything is okay does not win supporters or champions in the organization.

packing-list-e1521632105803.jpg

In preparation for this trip (and most trips) I use a packing list to be sure I have not forgotten anything.

This particular list is nice because it is pretty all-inclusive. I like to highlight all the items that I will need and then cross them off as they are put into the suitcase.

For a person who struggles with a.d.d., lists are essential. I think for most people, lists are helpful, especially for overseas trips.

But what is not on the list and what I intend to also “pack” with me as I mindfully begin this 7 day trip:

  1. Patience
  2. Openness to other cultural norms and experiences
  3. My Spanish skills for Argentina, and Portuñol skills for Brasil (when I try to speak Portuguese, somehow the works morph in my mouth to more of a combination of languages.)
  4. Patience
  5. Confidence in my intuition about travel
  6. Focus on what is important; letting go of what is unimportant
  7. Sense of adventure
  8. Acknowledgement that I cope pretty well with sleep-deprivation, even if I don’t like it much.
  9. Gratitude to be able to see some colleagues I have not seen since last year.
  10. Patience
  11. Gratitude for the delicious food I may eat – Argentina is like Europe when it comes to food. They love it, they do it well, and it is delicious.
  12. Well-established daily meditation practice
  13. Patience
  14. Strength and endurance – The trip home will be especially long, with 2 stops from Brasilia to home and another overnight flight on the way back.
  15. Did I mention patience?

My husband reminds me that I get to be in a warm climate, while we are still in the cold in MN, and that a lot of people would really love to have the opportunity to travel as much as I do. I do enjoy it (most of the time) and I am looking forward to the trip, with just a hint of trepidation about all I need to complete during the journey. Mostly it is about connecting, and having honest and open conversations.

I still plan to post every day, and hopefully will grab some good photos on the journey. There is definitely always food for thought when we travel, so we will see what comes up. Hasta luego, amigos!