Showcasing the Value of In-Person Collaboration
LMA members who take on leadership roles are critical to the success of the organization. These individuals ensure that the many committees, shared interest groups (SIGS) and task forces in which so many LMA members participate continue to provide consistent, substantial value.
With that in mind, the LMA Leaders’ Conference was created over 10 years ago to bring LMA leaders to one physical location for an intimate, two-day conference in which they can connect, brainstorm and learn together.
The 2017 Leaders’ Conference took place Oct. 19-20 in Chicago. This year’s conference theme was “The One Where Legal Marketers Build Something,” a reference to the titles of episodes in the TV show Friends. Friends resonates with viewers due to its focus on strong, lasting relationships built on trust, acceptance and encouragement — the type of relationships LMA actively encourages on a regular basis.
The uniqueness of the Leaders’ Conference is that it is all about gathering passionate people together to collaborate. This year’s Leaders’ Conference brought together 63 leaders from across our regions for a highly valuable in-person gathering that fostered trust, stimulated brainstorming and mapped a collective 2018 vision for LMA.
Leaders Built: Connections.
Meeting in-person at the Leaders’ Conference allowed leaders to get to know and build rapport with one another outside of email. According to conference attendee Jean Katz, 2018 co-chair of the member engagement committee, “Nothing can replace in-person relationships. Finally meeting people you’ve heard about and had phone calls with reminds you how great relationships are.”
Rebecca Wissler, 2018 co-chair of the governance committee, agrees. “Networking with LMA leaders ― culling their expertise and building trust ― is invaluable.”
The sentiment that in-person communication builds trust is well supported by science. A study co-authored by Kevin Rockmann of George Mason University and Gregory Northcraft, a professor of executive leadership at the University of Illinois who specializes in workplace collaboration, highlights the noteworthy benefits of connecting in person.
“Technology has made us much more efficient but much less effective,” said Northcraft in a statement regarding the findings of the study. “Something is being gained, but something is being lost. The something gained is time, and the something lost is the quality of relationships. And quality of relationships matters.”
At the Leaders’ Conference, attendees took part in a variety of in-person activities and discussions, such as a team-building activity called “Minute to Win It!” and a workshop called “The Power of Communication.” These activities helped to build a trusting, open environment, which served as the supportive base for collaboration and creative ideas.
Leaders Built: Ideas.
The Leaders’ Conference is a place where LMA leaders gather to examine the past year and set visions and goals for the year ahead. As part of the this year’s conference agenda, co-chairs huddled together for a two-part breakout session during which they developed presentations that assessed their 2017 performance and outlined 2018 goals and big ideas.
While all of this planning could have been conducted over numerous email threads and videoconferencing, the Leaders’ Conference not only facilitated bonding between leaders, but also creativity. Meeting together in-person has been suggested to be an effective way to generate the most creative and valuable ideas.
Research from MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory supports the theory that face-to-face meetings allow members to come up with more ideas and become more capable as a group compared to virtual meetings. MIT researcher, Alex Pentland, said, “Usually we can completely ignore the content of discussions and use only the visible social signals to predict the outcome of a negotiation or a sales pitch, the quality of group decision making, and the roles people assume within the group.”
We certainly saw creativity at play during the Leaders’ Conference breakout sessions and presentations. Common 2018 goals that emerged from these presentations included utilization of new social media, the development of standard resources to avoid “reinventing the wheel” and collaboration with other LMA committees, SIGS and task forces.
Leaders Built: A Shared Vision.
Some might say the most crucial benefit of the Leaders’ Conference is bringing together leaders from all LMA committees, SIGS and task forces to discuss ways each group can contribute to the association’s overall mission and vision.
Andrew Laver, 2018 co-chair of the governance committee, said “being a leader means being able to keep the LMA mission going.”
Laver’s comment points to what makes the Leaders’ Conference so uniquely valuable: passionate people coming together to help one another build something cohesive, impactful and valuable.
On the final day of the conference, keynote speaker James Kane struck an emotional chord with attendees by focusing on the topic of helping in “Help! I Need Somebody: The Art and Science of Giving and Receiving Help.” Tears were shed, and attendees walked away with a deepened understanding of meaningful relationships. (To see how James thanked LMA for their ongoing support by paying it forward, watch this video.)
2018 LMA President Ashraf Lakhani summarized the Leaders’ Conference best: “We have so many smart, engaged volunteers who are committed to serving in the best interest of the LMA. We are fortunate to be temporary stewards of an organization that is in such a positive place because of the contributions of so many leaders before us. I’m proud to play a small part in helping to continue building the LMA and am reinforced by the genuine enthusiasm of all of our leaders.”
What Will You Build?
The 2017 LMA Leaders’ Conference is an example of a highly effective in-person meeting, but we are all familiar with meetings that waste time. Here are some ways in which you can improve the effectiveness of the meetings you manage and participate in:
- Build trust by meeting in person. This is the most basic takeaway, but in 2017, it can be easy to rely on technology to house meetings rather than physical locations. Whenever you can, insist that employees attend meetings in person. If need be, share the findings from this article related to the trust- and creativity-building benefits of in-person collaboration.
- Build the most ideas possible. The benefits of face-to-face communication materialize regardless of the content of a meeting; there is no need to waste time with irrelevant discussion. To avoid wasting valuable time in meetings, stick to a fairly detailed agenda so you can fill your time with the maximum amount of creative relevant ideas and takeaways.
- Build in time for takeaways. The Leaders’ Conference built in time for leaders to share their plans for 2018 based on their collaborative ideas formulated during the conference. At the end of your own meetings, do something similar. Read out action items and points of consensus so that everyone sees the fruits of their meeting labor. This will solidify the value of the meeting and lead to more post-meeting action.
Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and help build a stronger LMA together?
Develop deeper relationships and experiences with your fellow members by contributing your skills to one of the 2018 LMA committees that best fit your interests. View the 2018 priorities and objectives each of the committees set during the Leaders’ Conference, and express your interest by Thursday, November 30.
If you are interested in getting involved as an LMA volunteer or leader locally or regionally, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.