“I don’t like cameras.” “I don’t have high-speed bandwidth.” “I’m in the dark because I’m still wearing pyjamas.” “I didn’t get the log-in.” “I have an old laptop (or a new laptop) and haven’t activated the camera.” “My computer is in a dock.” “I’m not good with technology.” “I don’t like the program my company or its strategic partners use as much as Facetime, Skype, Hangout, WattsApp.” “This troubleshooting is taking too long; just for today, can’t we shut down and mute everything nonessential so we can get through our agenda?” “Sorry you only see the top of my head – I didn’t adjust the angle of my camera.”
If you’re like many leaders, you’ll hear all of these reasons why switching on your camera, making the most of screen-sharing, and opening up your meeting to multi-channel sharing rather than one-way communication is too hard, too clumsy, too slow or too inconvenient.
You’ll hear pleas to tone down online connectivity to cope with poor bandwidth and work-from-home workplaces that aren’t configured to switch on the capacities that your company has purchased.
You’ll see the same people, time after time, who show up just-in-time or late, who don’t test the connections, who haven’t mastered log-ins, mutes or webcam permissions, or who don’t send invitations with log-ins that work locally in every country.
And, if you don’t switch on cameras and make the most of connectivity, you’ll see your team become transactional, rather than truly connecting. You’ll see them do a round-robin of serial presentations rather than engage in a real co-creative or critical thinking dialogue. You’ll see them miss the signs of delight, confusion, annoyance, puzzlement, impatience or waiting for an opening to say something.
If you’re a leader, you have a choice. You can shrug and accept vast differences between your early adopters, early majority adopters and late adopters and let regression to the lowest common denominator dictate your team’s connectivity. Or, you can set the bar higher and insist on a base level of connectivity-literacy and coach to the connection you’ll need to make the most of new techno-touch points.
If you’re an early adopter, you can sit on a call frustrated with colleagues who are struggling (including, perhaps, your boss or boss’ boss) – or you can offer, ahead of the next encounter, to reach out your hand, help diagnose the problems and talk them through the system. You can ask for permission to reach out into their study or living room and suggest adjustments to lighting, window-blinds, desk layouts, backdrops, background noise and camera angles.
You can expect meetings to start on time and go flawlessly – or you can budget the first 20 minutes or so to troubleshoot connectivity (and approach it as a teambuilding investment, which will go down as your team gets more proficient) or you can be blindsided and impatient.
If you’re the owner of a small or medium-sized business, you can use whatever system is free – or you can invest in the platform that gives you the collaboration possibilities you need, and experiment with a few different solutions until you find the one that’s best.
They say we’re in Volatile Uncertain Complex Adverse (VUCA) times and that things won’t be back to normal anytime soon. And that we’re at an inflection point taking us to a new normal, where face-to-face physical contact will be more expensive, where we’ll be more environmentally and security-conscious about travel and communing and where we’ll need to put more effort into bonding and connecting. And where we’ll still crave community, connection, encouraging and energizing each other – and will need a foundation of trust and camaraderie to bring critical thinking to the table so we get the most from diverse perspectives.
Leaders – it’s up to you. Make your expectations known. Make your competence count. And, if you’re a later adopter who’s down at the start of the learning curve, voice your questions and get the help you need to assure yourself a continued prominent seat at the table.
Merom Klein + Louise Yochee Klein are business psychologists who build the courage that business leaders need when new realities take teams out of their comfort zones and require new habits and new solutions. If today’s new realities require you to set the bar higher and accelerate the adoption of new ways of working for inventive solutions and critical thinking, they invite your inquiry @ CourageGrowthPartners.com