The other day, a colleague was sharing an idea on a six-person video call when a wall of orange and white calico overtook her video window. Not missing a beat, she kept talking, calmly lifting her cat and setting it on the floor. The intruder made me and everyone else on the call smile, but the conversation kept moving like nothing happened.
Yesterday, in a virtual training session, the four-year-old daughter of another colleague came to snuggle up next to him while he covered his part of the agenda. He put his arm around her and kept presenting while sharing a very sweet father-daughter scene, again, not missing a beat.
This reminds me of how far we’ve come since the old days (2017) when Korea analyst Robert Kelly’s live BBC interview from his home office went awry as his four-year-old daughter strutted into the room, followed by his nine-month old son in a walker, followed by his wife trying to pull them out of the room. I wonder how Professor Kelly would have reacted in today’s world. Yes, he was on TV, so the stakes were higher. For many of us, though, that “live TV” moment might be when our kid snuggles up while we’re talking to 40 of our colleagues in a video training session.
Working from home has given our co-workers a look and a listen into our day-to-day lives, making all of us a bit more human. It’s enabling, maybe even forcing, more of the Mike Robbins “bring your whole self to work” idea on all of us. The question is, are you embracing it, or are you shielding yourself from it?
In my book, We Can’t Do It Alone, Building Influence with Simple Strategies, I included a section titled “Open Up” as a strategy for building relationships. I wrote, “Relationship-building is a two-way street. It pays to open up a little bit. If you haven’t shared something interesting or, or even embarrassing about yourself, you probably won’t get past that threshold of trust. Keep the conversation scales tipped in favor of others. Just remember to share things about yourself to build rapport.”
It is best to open up to people with whom you’ve already established a level of competence and some level of trust. That said, I find most people are way too cautious and are missing the relationship-building benefits of sharing a little more about themselves. I can honestly say I feel closer to my colleagues who are providing a small online glimpse into their lives outside of work.
So, turn on that webcam. Calmly set aside the cat. Hug your kid. Be vulnerable, be authentic, and share your humanity.
How have your relationships evolved with your colleagues or customers while working from home? How have you embraced the vulnerability that comes with a webcam in your home?