I love email, but there’s really no substitute for face-to-face contact. I’ve spent the past four days in my company’s German offices, and I feel incredibly productive. What otherwise would have taken multiple transatlantic emails over several days to accommodate time differences we often accomplished in a single hour. We took care of my entire agenda in less than half the time I had allotted because of the efficiency of meeting in person.

And my agenda accomplishments don’t even account for the foundations we built for ongoing working relationships. Colleagues I mostly knew from org charts and emails are now real faces and personalities. We’ve shaken hands, shared meals, and commiserated about shared annoyances. I know the layout of the office, where to go for lunch, and who smokes and who doesn’t. Hopefully I am now as real to my European colleagues as they are to me.

As we wrapped up our meetings today, everyone agreed that we need to do this at least once a year, if not more often. It’s too easy to sit in our respective offices and think we know what is going on, making the corresponding assumptions. Face-to-face visits demystify both parties and put us back on track with reality.  Rest assured, I’ll be back in our German offices soon; it is impossible to undervalue this kind of visit. Besides that, I love it here.