It Is almost a full 12 months since the first lockdown shockwave set in and a new reality of daily virtual meetings became and now is normal. During this period, I personally would have thought that anyone who was serious about business, be they a small online coaching business, like my own, someone cooking and delivering delicious homemade meals or a market leader in the banking or insurance sector, would by now have aced this space with at least the very bare minimum requirements, like good lighting and a reasonable command of the mute and unmute button and perhaps even know how to activate the video camera when asked. Furthermore, those A-students or those forced by their leadership positions, I would imagine by now have ordered, online of course, one of those freestanding-cell-phone-holding-Chinese-circular-lights and a decent headset whilst also mastering the art of hosting virtual meetings which I would expect to include breakout rooms and the odd poll, definitely the use of the chat function while making sure this is all recorded on a cloud. HR by now, surely has added a new KPI standard for these capabilities to be measured at the 2021 annual revenue.
Why is this too much to ask?
Do you remember, way back when your independence depended on driving a car? Do you remember taking driving lessons? Do you remember stalling at the stop streets and rolling backwards down hills? How could you forget that driving school aunty, pinching you or slapping your leg (okay, yes that was pre-2000)? Do you remember the day you got that learners license and could proceed to the real world, the adult world of independence when you could qualify for your driver’s licence? Well, if you remember that, then why after nearly a full year do you not know where unmute is, get nervous when asked to complete a poll and feel like you are being sent to cyberspace, never to be returned when told you are sent to join a breakout room?
To my own shock and horror, during a coaching session of a person from a top SA institute, this morning, I realized that, the very people who have been paid to work from home in their pyjamas have not yet figured this out, let alone how to make the meetings engaging and effective nor, hear me out, what is appropriate attire for such meetings where important subjects like risk management and yearend budgets are being discussed.
Forgive me if you disagree, but I can no more feel professional, eloquent and act like a leader when I am dressed in my weekend-worst any more than I can relax and chill in a suit and high heels. Has the novelty of waking up and working without showering and shaving not yet worn off? Have the chairs of meetings, the ambassadors of the brand and the CEO’s missed the age-old adage of ‘first impressions are lasting impressions.’ Each time you show up you have an opportunity to make a first impression, in the room, be it the Zoom-Room. I know the latest trending word is ‘authenticity’ and ‘be yourself.’ I think we should not confuse this or use it as a copout for not being one’s best self.
I remember quite early in lockdown, when things really were still a novelty and nowhere near normal, I had an 8 am meeting with an HR manageress and Production manager. It was the first time I was to meet the HR manageress and while we waited she apologized for not being willing to put on her video as she was still in her pjs. I was quite literally gobsmacked and a tad insulted that this person thought so little of not only me but also their manager and maybe even herself that she would turn up in normal work hours with bed head and possibly even unbrushed teeth. You must admit, our minds think in pictures.
No wonder 2020 felt like one over-extended slumber party from which we are now struggling to awaken. Sloppy clothes, poor posture and binge eating is a recipe for depression. This coupled with real loss of so much more than I could list here has rendered us an unproductive workforce of screen-time addicts.
I have spoken to so many people who are tired of being at home but even more exhausted at the thought of going into the office. Home schooling is an option not because it is good for the kids but because the mom doesn’t need to play taxi-mom. While the shops are operational the head offices are on no-in-person meeting status. Nothing makes sense anymore and we have lost our internal compass.
If we want our economy to recover from the financial demise brought about by COVID, it will have to start with each one of us. Get up, make-up/shave-up and dress up has never been a bad thing. More importantly, show up, not as a blank screen with the name of another person, but as an engaged and active participant, an employee with ideas and a contribution to be made. It is time we get that virtual driver’s license and at least know where the brakes and accelerator are without fail. You cannot drive a car with one eye on your phone, even though some drivers think they can. Leaders require a new skill set to run meetings effectively and companies must insist that each participant has, as a minimum requirement has enough data and a decent coverage. Our gadgets are our vehicles and data is our fuel, without it we are going nowhere.
Welcome to the now. Last year’s future is happening!
Mel Tomlinson – Business Coach and owner of Performance Booster
Performance Booster: Performance Booster is a personal development program that takes people to the next level and speaks to those who believe in growing their people. The programme has been successfully run across a broad spectrum of business sectors and can be seen as a solid foundation on which to build a healthy organization, with engaged employees who understand their own vision, goals and values.
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