“For me, virtual just doesn’t do it. Crucial interviews, closing the big sale, forging a partnership, genuine creative interaction – these can only take place in person in the same room. Nuance, humour, dissent, romance – all are inadequate or impossible digitally.”
– these words from Luke Johnson’s most recent column in Sunday Times Business section struck me.
Over the past three months here on the lovely Isle of Wight, have I forgotten what it means to be truly connected into the business world? Zoom (or Teams, Hangout etc) has been a revelation for many of us of course and it’s been a great way to stay connected, both professionally and socially. But has it hindered my business? Yes of course it has. Since I moved to the IOW, I’ve been regularly commuting up to London every other week for business meetings and networking. Yes, there is the ferry/train/accommodation phaff to deal with every time but I was in a groove and had got used to that. When it all came to a grinding halt at the end of March, I will admit that I was hugely relieved to have that pressure taken away temporarily and over the past three months, all my professional conversations have been “virtual coffees” or telephone calls.
Both areas of my work, headhunting and coaching call for a certain amount of personal connection and the ability to gain trust. The headhunting side has certainly been more adaptable to the virtual format with only final stage interviews being delayed by the need for face to face interaction. The coaching side has proven more tricky. Trust is a huge part of the coaching relationship. I always plan a “chemistry” session with any potential coaching client and normally this would be over coffee, either in London or here on the island. This part of the process has proved harder to navigate and I’m not sure I have the answer yet. There are some elements of career coaching that are transactional e.g. reviewing CV’s and LinkedIn profile but the really tricky stuff like defining a career goal…..that requires proper reflection, time and patience. Sometimes a telephone call is better for those conversations; it’s easier to pause, ponder and just be silent without the pressure of eye contact. I think the answer may be to use a blended approach, get regular feedback from my clients about what is working and what isn’t working and above all, look ahead to a time in the not too distant future when proper face to face sessions are part of the process again. Lockdown has given me the opportunity to try different tools as well as the time to reflect on how I want to work in the future.
I felt challenged by Luke Johnson’s words and resented his view in the rest of the article of the countryside being less dynamic than cities but I think he has a point and I feel fortunate to have a foot in both camps as we look ahead to a bit more freedom. London, yes as long as I can come home to the Isle of Wight.
I’d be interested to know what your thoughts are on virtual vs in person….
Written by Claire Beasley