The Human Element and Virtual Interactions

Virtual InteractionsThe Covid-19 pandemic forced us all to live and work differently than ever before. We entered a primarily virtual environment where business engagements were no longer in person and instead were held on digital platforms. This shift caused there to be more distance between us—physically and in other, less tangible, ways—but how we interact with each other must stay the same in order for our businesses to continue to thrive.

The Human Element

One of my founding principles is what I call the human element strategy. This blog is specifically about applying this strategy in our virtual environment. What I mean by the human element strategy is this: at every turn and in every decision we make, we are dealing with people—be they our clients, customers, family, or employees. Applying the human element strategy involves never losing focus of how our decisions will influence those around us. So, we need to make all our decisions keeping in mind the needs, desires, and goals of those people we’re engaging with, while, at the same time, we try to image what’s on their minds.

Applying the human element strategy involves never losing focus of how our decisions will influence those around us. Click To Tweet

The essence of applying this success principle is about listening to people carefully, observing their body language, and discerning how they are responding to you so you can then determine how best to address their needs and be responsive. In our new world of primarily virtual meetings, this can be challenging, especially when so many people opt to keep their videos off during meetings. It is my strong guidance that everyone keeps their videos on during all virtual engagements. Doing so may have the very real outcome of setting apart those who are going to succeed in this environment and those who may not. 

This is an issue I am passionate about because during my entire career I have applied the people skills I have developed which have allowed me to successfully interface with people. And, just as many thought leaders have written about and counseled on, I believe success is about winning people over, understanding them, and helping them with their concerns and needs. This is much harder to do when we can’t see each other. The point is that to practice the human element strategy successfully you must be able to see the person you are communicating with.

I believe success is about winning people over, understanding them, and helping them with their concerns and needs. Click To Tweet

When I have asked about the reasons people leave their videos off, I have received a multitude of answers. I understand the challenges we are having working at home with family distractions, bandwidth issues, and all our attempts to try and maximize and multi-task with the time that we have.

But I want to emphasize the importance of working through those distractions to ensure you set aside time to focus and, when facilitating or attending virtual meetings, you are in a space where you can comfortably use the platform’s video capability.

Virtual Engagements

As a close to this blog, I’ll share with you some experiences that further drive home this very important guidance. Recently I attended a Zoom meeting facilitated by a local non-profit business support organization funded in part by the government’s Small Business Administration. There were at least 100 attendees and I was able to scan through the videos of all the attendees. To my surprise and disappointment, around 50 percent had their videos turned off. Not being able to see their faces was very discouraging to me because, based on my human element strategy, I would have liked to have seen the other participants to better engage with them and determine how they were responding to the information we were getting. Not being able to see people’s reactions altered the level of engagement I would have liked. 

Another very positive recent virtual meeting example has to do with a Monday morning staff meeting facilitated by my son who is president of the company that I am currently supporting as the VP for Corporate Strategy. There are five of us on the Leadership Team. During our staff meetings, all five of us have our videos on and we are conversing openly, seeing one another, joking, and experiencing the staff meeting comfortably and successfully. Being able to engage with one another is a much more “normal” feeling since it helps to foster a sense of teamwork and togetherness as we face the challenges ahead of us. 

It is my strong feeling that as the pandemic continues and the virtual environment is the new normal, business folks that adhere to my advice and use their videos are going to win whether they are facilitators or attendees. We all know that people are the key to business success, so if you believe that then you will realize that what I’m advocating will separate the winners from the losers in this pandemic environment. What has always been the key to business success continues to be how we interact with people, and the best way to do that is by using your video to interact and respond in all your virtual engagements so people know that you are present, listening, focused, and determined to help them. And after all, that’s what the human element is all about.

What’s your take on using your video? What are the reasons for using it or not? Feel free to comment below.