“Are you ready for your close up? Keep it real, but most of all keep it authentic.”
Last year we all became Zoom aficionados as COVID-19 life propelled us to seek virtual options to connect with each other. We figured out how to adjust lighting, volume, camera placement, and stage backgrounds. We even discovered that Zoom had created a “touch up appearance” option which, depending on the setting could enable us to smooth out a few edges or give the appearance that we were wrapped in a gauzy mist.
But every time I prepared my zoom for a meeting, I only allowed myself incremental adjustments because my inner Queens’s voice speaks up and says “one day, you’re going to have to meet people in person and you are going to show up as you are.” I realized that an airbrushed, video self won’t be able to accompany me when I appear in person. On days when I feel myself flagging a bit and am tempted to move that cursor to the right, I can always count on my inner voice to call me out and ask: “Who do your clients and audience expect you to be AND how do you need to show up?” Then, the cursor stays where it is, I dab on a little extra concealer and show up as “authentic me “ on Zoom.
The word “authentic” has surfaced in other ways. Most notably, it came up during a question-and-answer session when I was a virtual conference presenter and panelist. Two male senior executives and I showed up as three voices from behind the event’s branded slide as we were interviewed live in real-time. We fielded a number of questions about COVID-19’s impact on work and market trends, and I spoke about using humor effectively at work. (I.e. How to use humor to be authentic, but not cause a legal incident!)
What struck me as we spoke is how much our professional conversations have changed over the past year. These executives were far more personal and forthcoming about their challenges navigating COVID-19. They spoke about how it had also given them an opportunity to develop a true bond and a deeper relationship with their staff members as they supported each other through their work and personal challenges. It provided them a greater understanding of what made their staff members tick in regards to their values, resilience, and talents.
These executives had begun to convert their experiences into stories to use to motivate, inspire and engage their staff as they move forward to tackle new team challenges. This conversation keeps coming to mind as I think about what possibilities 2021 will present as we move forward.
I’ve outlined five key action items:
- Think about what we had to do without or eliminate in 2020. What do we need to do more or less of in 2021?
- Retain key learnings from 2020 work experiences. Use the principles of knowledge transfer and applied storytelling to create a group “Important Lessons Learned” file in your team workspaces. Jotting down a few lines will help us remember and use that experience as a motivational prompt in the future.
- Identify opportunities to build even stronger and more productive teams by continuing to develop the human connection during staff meetings.
- Establish that building time to develop interpersonal relationships is a team value and remains a team priority
- Develop your team’s listening, inquiry and feedback skills so they communicate effectively no matter what mode of communication they use.
To find out more about how being authentic matters check out “Play # 1 – Keep It Authentic” in my new book “The Learned- It- In- Queens Communications Playbook – Winning Against Digital Distraction.” This is a short witty book with a long title that shows how we can improve how we communicate and relate to each other to make things bettah.