After an abysmal 6 hours in the Greensboro, NC airport, I arrived in Chicago for a conference, and promptly left my hotel room for a walk.

It is a glorious summer evening in Chicago, lower humidity than the dog’s-mouth levels we are enduring in NC.

And yet I am drawn inside to a dark-paneled Italian restaurant to celebrate the end of my travel woes with comfort food (spaghetti with meat sauce) and comfort drink (Chianti, yum).  I had just purchased an In Style magazine to read during a quiet dinner alone.  For a working mom with two daughters under the age of 5, I’ve got to tell you, this is about as close to heaven as it gets.

I did not notice that the diner shares a space with a rollicking piano bar.  Yikes.  With only a half wall and some very greasy curtains separating the two.

You know exactly what I heard:  My Girl.  Under the Boardwalk.  Piano Man.  Margaritaville.  I wasn’t sure how many people were in the bar, but the patrons were…um…engaged.

“You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille” finally lured me in like a siren’s call.  I have a history with that song.  It involves a dueling piano bar.  And hurricanes (not the weather variety).  In New Orleans.  Enough said there.

I just stood at the edge of the bar, for only 15 minutes.  Big tables full of convention goers.  People who looked like they might really like each other, but don’t see each other often.  Or don’t get out much.  Or both.  The majority of them were clearly colleagues or work associates of some sort.

And I was reminded of the power of getting away.  That a team, or colleagues, who occasionally have the chance to escape their regular environment for a few days or even hours have the opportunity to see each other in a new light.

Even if the effect only lasts a few days:  That jerk in the cubicle next to you – or on the other end of the phone conversation – is suddenly more human, more personable, more real.  Maybe he or she doesn’t do that thing just to annoy you.  Maybe you have a bit more common ground than you thought…

As leaders, we can create those opportunities – major or mini – to connect our teams, one to another, so that they can create connections that are extraordinary for themselves, the team, our clients.  Tough to do if you’re breathing recycled air.

What get-away can you create so that your team can look at each other, and therefore their collective opportunities, in a new light?

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