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Big-Time Multitasking: Managing a Merger and a Pandemic

Just months into the huge change-management process for a merger, Truist’s Tina Fullard had to adapt her leadership style to the realities of telecommuting and virtual team meetings.

MeetingsNet’s 2021 Changemakers list recognizes outstanding meeting professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways. Find the full 2021 Changemakers list here.

Tina Fullard

Head of Corporate Programs & Hospitality Services, Truist

For building a new SMM program after a merger, at the same time that her five-person team had to convert hundreds of events to virtual

In December 2019, Tina Fullard’s employer, BB&T Bank, bought SunTrust Bank in a deal where “the premise was that it was a merger of equals,” she says. “So, we became a company called Truist.” Her first task for the new 50,000-employee entity: “Look at every procedure and policy to create a strategic meeting management program that uses the best practices from both companies.” 

With a five-person internal team plus support from American Express Global Business Travel, Fullard managed the process “by constantly referring to a change-management ‘maturity model’ I found years ago to show the team we don’t have to try to sprint on day one,” she says. “I would say, ‘We’re at step three and we’re making headway. We just need to get to step four now, not to step 10.’ I kept going back to that, especially when we had to start working from home and were collaborating via WebEx.”

In addition, the entire company moved to online meetings because of the Covid pandemic. This meant that less than four months after the merger, the meetings team had to convert nearly 375 internal and client/prospect events to virtual. To manage this, Fullard implemented a protocol where meeting requests had to come in at least 21 business days ahead of execution. “We explained to every line of business that it wasn’t just about creating a WebEx—we had to build an invitation, handle attendee management, and do a lot of other things.” But if a business line needed something done sooner than that? “We’d say, ‘We can do it only if it’s done in this way.’ It was about educating them on how to best hit their objectives by planning far enough out.”

As 2020 wound down, Fullard saw that the new process was working. But it was far from easy for her and her team. “Honestly, a lot of times it just didn’t feel possible,” she recalls. “And what would happen is that each of us would come to our breaking point at a different moment, but the rest of us would jump in and say, ‘Okay, we’ve got you. Take a day to relax and come back refreshed.’ It was really about staying together as a team and taking one thing at a time.”

Best Advice for Managing Change

“One of my favorite sayings is, ‘We don’t have to boil the ocean.’ Take small steps and keep looking to the maturity model as you move through a change initiative. Meeting planners tend to be perfectionists, and often they focus on the imperfections of their program rather than on the things they’ve accomplished and the next thing they can achieve.”

Spare Time 

“My daughter and I have been doing college visits, and my son plays on travel basketball and soccer teams. If we’re not traveling on the weekends for those things, I try to play as much tennis as I can.”

View the full list of 2021 Changemakers

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