23.03.2020

Be truly YOU, Be a better you, for you

On Monday I was supposed to attend a video call with a prospect client, to discuss a technical proposal. I say “supposed” because the video call only lasted 2 min, after which everybody turned off his camera and continued the meeting only as a call conference. The meetings I had during the rest of the week had just the same pattern.

I did not give it too much importance in that moment, but now I’m giving my own explanation to what happened.

I mean, I did not expect my boss drinking coffee from a colorful mug that said “I love you daddy” ….my idea of him was the typical marine soldier terrifying wife and children like hell. 

Neither I expected the CMO of this prospect (beautiful LinkedIn page, lots of public video interviews in his expensive Armani suits) framed in his own tiny “habitat”, with aged grey walls, old-fashioned TV screen, old cheap bookshelf, full of books either published by his own company or gifted by 3rd party providers. In a nutshell…. all the opposite I was imaging.

A mid-age lady was also attending the meeting, brown hair to what the picture was telling of her, since she never switched on the camera. I did not have an explanation, until my wife reminded me that hairdressers in Italy have been closed for the last couple of weeks. You can imagine what are the consequences.

People are not prepared to that. Videocalls, either for professional reasons or private fun, require preparation. If you can’t make it, you go for a normal voice call.

These days are dramatically changing our lives, not just from a professional point of view, but from a social point of view, showing the worst and the best of each one of us.

I see many companies (including mine) that are encouraging their employees to adopt smart working to compensate productivity and avoid any activity freeze; videoconferencing is a key tool to connect people and make them closer, since it is not a secret that “verbal” content represents just 7% of communication, the rest is para-verbal (38%) and body language (55%). Consider that next time you write an email or next time you use an emoticon :))))

What in principle is a good theory might become in practice into a nightmare for many people, at least the ones who are not prepared to disclose their private, the ones that were already uncomfortable in showing off, and the ones that were hoping, at least for a short period of time, in regular phone calls to solve their most dramatic terror which is appearing in front of others. No more competition on make-ups, perfumes and high heels for women, no more expensive ties, sunglasses and big company cars for men. In a nutshell, while the authorities are recommending to use a mask to fight the virus, the virus himself is tearing apart all the masks we have been creating so far.

Now you have to combine different roles (parent, boss, friend, social icon) usually split in different locations (home, office, pub, Facebook) into just one, exposing you to a number of threads from a communication standpoint. Even worse, you are asked to play new roles (teacher, chef, nurse, trainer just to mention a few) into the same location. 

My own benchmark says that the first 5-10 minutes of any meeting is spent in apologizing to each other for whatever reasons, from unicorn pijama dressed daughters jumping behind your back, to wives yelling from the kitchen because you just left it a mess. It is a sort of tax you have to pay to reconnect your social image you projected in the office with your new current social image (or more a puzzle of different images) into your four “private” walls.

In coaching, analyzing the context and the observation point is an essential and crucial step to identify and solve a given problem. Part of job is actually showing the coachee how to change his current “glasses” and see the problem from a different angle. It’s not simple and it usually takes a while before the coachee translates into actions to make it happen. These days are forcing us to change at the same time both context and observation point, and for many people without the help of a real coach. 

In most of the cases it is like asking to somebody who is good to play with a ball to suddenly become an acrobat and play with three of four, without a real playbook.

I’m reading a lot of articles saying the world will change after all this drama will be gone, because people is (re)discovering what are the real priorities of life, and are focusing on emotions that have been forgotten and are appearing again now that the “big wheel” is finally slowing down. Even Pope Francesco is inviting people to “find small, concrete gestures expressing closeness and concreteness towards the people closest to us”, and make sure these days “won’t be wasted”. I’m not that religious, but there is a strong laic message in that statement too, which we do not have to overlook.

Well I gave my own interpretation to that and specifically to what I do not want to “waste”, and I guess our common objective is to cope with this new situation and make sure we find all the resources to make “today” different from yesterday and definitely different tomorrow, while at the same time reconnect all the scattered projections of ourselves we left behind into one and restore our unique identity of human beings.

We do not have to be ashamed anymore of showing our “private”: it is part of what we are. We do not have to worry again on how to inject creativity in our daily job, hiring architects to restructure our offices or consultants to show us the new way of working: our kids will bring their endless creativity and imagination into our work, whether we like it or not. We do not have to “appear”, we just need to “live”.

I’m not saying we should end up doing our meetings in bathrobes and “pijamas”, but for sure we might want to catch this massive opportunity to reconsider our lives, to shift from the pattern of “what I must do”, into a more sustainable “what I can do and what I’d like to do”. Don’t waste that.

Andrea R. CEO and Contributor Withoutfilters, 23 marzo 2020