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On Wednesday, March 31 at 1:00 p.m., Gordie Spater, CEO of the Raffoni Group, spoke with four other local CEOs in a powerful discussion about leading teams in this new, virtual world.

It’s been almost a year since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the world of business to go largely virtual, and this new normal is here to stay for the foreseeable future. These changes have affected every level of business, from the executive team down through the ranks of each company.

During this 50-minute panel discussion, we heard from Dave MacKeen of Eliassen Group, Jason Maxwell of MP, Melissa Gordon of Gordon Logistics, and Ameet Kallarackal of Fisherman. Spater, of the Raffoni Group, a Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based firm helping CEOs succeed, asked the panelists about their best practices and their lessons learned from the past year.

“The pandemic really brought out that there’s a lot of emotional fragility even within your leadership team. And trying to be sensitive to that is really important,” says Melissa Gordon, CEO of Gordon Logistics, a third-party logistics company that serves all members of the alcoholic beverage industry. She explains the importance she’s learned in the past year of being an empathetic leader, saying her team has been “meeting and being very honest in talking about ‘where are you at, not just at work but in life,’” so that they can better support one another.

Dave MacKeen of Eliassen Group and Jason Maxwell of MP both spoke on the challenges they’ve faced and their lessons learned with onboarding new team members during this time. “Something we’ve lost with new employees is the ad hoc training that happens when people are around each other,” says Maxwell. “In the past, we would always bring [new members] into corporate in Reading for a weeklong intensive,” says MacKeen, “getting to know the people really well. That doesn’t exist right now.”

They both stressed the importance of learning lessons, both positive and negative, from this time, and taking those lessons into the new normal—the next era coming. 

Ameet Kallarackal, CEO of Fisherman, a web development company, explained how his company has continued to operate in a way that’s both efficient and fulfilling in the virtual world. They use a digital whiteboarding tool called Mural to have virtual whiteboarding sessions. They also deliberately put emphasis on human connection. “At the beginning of every conversation, the first five minutes isn’t for talking about work—it’s about catching up,” he explains. Fisherman plans to be almost fully remote going forward.

All four expressed optimism for the future, explaining that their companies in some cases were even better positioned now than they were a year ago. 

If you missed the conversation on Thursday, check out the recording below for even more details and tips from some of the region’s most successful leaders.