The solstice has been and gone so the nights are drawing in and it’ll soon be Christmas. On the plus side, we are seeing more people committing to running face-to-face events now that the restrictions are easing and organisations attempt to get their teams meeting up again.
Although there will undoubtedly be an increase in remote working in the future, there really is no substitute for the benefits that come from physical, real-world meetings and events. Your ability to communicate, interpret and respond to non-verbal signals has evolved over thousands of years… there is no way anyone can adapt to a world that comes at you through a computer screen in a few months.
Are you being "seen"?
Working away from other people, with the limitations of digital check-ins can make you feel disconnected, undervalued and invisible. There are some interesting psychological factors that we have encountered about the “need to be seen”. Our latest blog article looks at the impact of not being "seen" in business,.
Of course, some people don’t like to be seen. If you want to watch a confident, eloquent leader turn into a stumbling, inauthentic mannequin, just point a camera at them. It doesn’t even take a camera. Asking some people to make a presentation can be just as debilitating.
In many ways, as they say, it’s “horses for courses”. At Colour;Noun, Howard has, in the past, happily performed to 2000 people in the Comedy Tent at the Reading Festival; Vicky has belted out the iconic Grizabella role from Cats to a 700-full theatre, completely unfazed when her microphone gave out on her.
I’m certain neither of us would swap roles (you certainly wouldn’t pay to hear Howard sing) but finding your “happy place” in what could be a stressful situation is vital if you want to project authenticity and confidence.
Authenticity and "trying too hard"
One of the counter-intuitive things that we like, and that we often explore through Applied Improvisation, is the peril of trying too hard. Imagine a conversation about your hopes and ambitions for the next five years. The way you project yourself, the words you choose, the way you phrase things will be completely different when this conversation is with your friends in a social situation than it would be if the question came up in a job interview for a role that you really wanted.
The pressure to look and sound good might cause you to stumble over your words, or possibly the outward projection of the image that you want to present might be a completely inauthentic version of who you are. Either way, it’s not the you that you are when you’re relaxed with your friends.
Being authentic when addressing a bigger group is also vital. Company aims and ambitions can be impersonal, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be communicated in a human way. We have long challenged the exclusivity and power-games that come from an over-use of buzzwords and jargon (and you might like to check out To Be Clear by Phillip Collins in this regard) and few things can create a barrier between the speaker and their audience more than using language that confers status or (you think) makes you sound clever.
If you are looking to re-connect people through a live, face-to-face event in the next few months and you would like to do something that announces that your business is back and looking to the future, we offer a free, no-obligation 60-minute phone or video consultation to talk through your ideas, hopes and what might be possible.
Just click on the link and pick a time!
We all need to be seen.
We live in a fast-paced, always on, impersonal world. With all the noise created by society and the demands of the workplace it’s all too easy to feel invisible and undervalued.
Humans have always wanted to be noticed and acknowledged. It’s why people paint their front doors different colours to set them apart from everyone else, and what is graffiti tagging except a modern equivalent of “[insert name] was here”? A personal statement in an impersonal urban environment.
It could be said that the trolling, vitriol, entrenched opinions, vehement rebuttals and angry defences that typify much of social media is another aspect of this, as people who don’t want to be invisible look for likes, bites, arguments and follows to justify their existence. It has been said that conspiracy theories frequently have their genesis in accounts with very few followers. Being the person who breaks an exclusive, niche claim that gives credibility to your position confers the weird celebrity of being the person with access to information that others don’t… even if that information is wrong or made up.
Even the concept of the retweet is an interesting one. You can signal to everyone what you value; a one-click opinion and a telegraphed position… and if it generates a debate or an argument, well, at least you’ve been seen. This is even stranger when you consider that the piece of glass and plastic in your pocket can be used to access the sum total of all human knowledge, yet most people use it to share videos of cats or get into arguments with people that they’ve never met.
What does this need to be seen mean for the workplace? For a start, many organisations are so large and complex that it is impossible to know everyone, and even if you do know all the members of your department or function, chances are they’ve all been working from home with only video interaction for the past year and a bit. Being seen on a screen isn’t the same as being seen as an actual, three-dimensional person.
To answer this question I’d like to point you in the direction of some research conducted by Dan Ariely, Emir Kamenica and Drazen Prelec. They set up the following exercise. I will let you draw your own parallels with your working environment…
They paid people to complete a simple, repetitive task, finding pairs of letters in blocks of text, like “gg” or “tt”. Completed sheets were handed to an invigilator to receive their payment, but every completed sheet earned the participant less than the last one. So far, so boring and seemingly pointless.
The interesting wrinkle was that there were three groups of participants. One group had their answers quickly scanned by the person checking them before filing them. In other words, their contribution was acknowledged. The second had their “work” filed without being checked – ignored – while the third group had their unchecked work immediately put into a shredder.
As you might imagine, the acknowledged group persisted with the task much longer, completing over a third more sheets. What might be more surprising is that there was no difference between having your work ignored and shredded.
Think again about the work that takes place in your business and how much it is acknowledged – seen – and how much is either ignored (or shredded!) The researchers made no attempt or show of checking the quality or the accuracy of the work. They just wanted to see how much of a difference being acknowledged makes to motivation.
Furthermore – and this is a pointed observation to people who think that certain elements of their workforce want to make as much money as possible while making as little effort as they can get away with – the “shredded” team could have made an endless amount of free money by handing in blank sheets of paper. The fact that they didn’t shows the demotivating effect of not being seen, or valued, for what you do.
So, how many emails have you ignored today? How many times have you been so “busy” that you haven’t acknowledged someone giving you something? How many times have you not looked over a piece of work that has been put in front of you? (Remember “ignoring” = “shredding”). How many times has your eye contact or attention been lacking? How many times have you skipped the “thank you” or not bothered with a smile?
Coming at it from the other angle, what does it feel like to do “pointless busy work” that seems to have no value, and that doesn’t allow you to be seen? Does it make you feel like engaging in the next company initiative or programme?
We all need to be seen. Feel free to like, share, dispute, argue or insult me about this. At least I will know that someone was watching.
Welcome to the Colour;Noun newsletter!
It’s colder than it should be and it keeps pouring with rain, so it must be May. There is a sneaking suspicion that summer actually happened, between 12.28pm and 12.41pm on the 16th, in which case the next thing to look forward to is Hallowe'en.
Of course, having contacts all over the world as we do, it might seem strange that we open this newsletter with comments about the weather. This could only get more typically British if we had suggested you make a nice cup of tea first, and then gave you instructions about how to make a Perfect Cup of Tea*. Talking about the weather is a convention that everyone (here at least) is comfortable with as an opening conversational gambit… and we’re thinking a lot about conventions at the moment.
It’s undeniable that there has been a prolonged period of pausing the rhythms and tropes of modern life. It’s often said that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. The research says that isn’t true, but there is no doubt that behavioural change happens when a change in routine or habit is begun and maintained for a significant period of time. Having in person interactions is one of those.
Getting back together again
What was once the ongoing routine of small team meetings, larger group strategy get-togethers and annual conferences have been online now for a long time, and people have become habituated to them. While this has undoubtedly cut down on travel costs and pollution there have been a number of studies that suggest that video interaction is not good for people psychologically and it stifles true engagement. The problem is that in working remotely, people have got out of the habit of seeing each other.
It's a perfect time to start getting people back together, but with so much having changed over the last year, it's important to spend time reconnecting and recharging for the future. We're running "reboarding" workshops , designed for teams to re-engage and kick off their return to the office. Find out more here.
Making the most of your return to live events
We are all too aware of the pitfalls that can befall a badly designed event, so if your recollections of team meetings or conferences is one of tedium, overlong presentations and PowerPoint, PowerPoint, PowerPoint this is the chance to break that habit and establish something new.
Do you want to create an event to remember? Using what we've learnt from designing and facilitating events, we have put together a guide to help you get back into live events and think about them differently.
Read and download your free copy here.
We’re pleased to say that more and more people are having the confidence to book events and considering ways to engage people in the content in fresh ways - in fact, we are busy working on one right now, where we’ve swapped building slide decks for building go-karts to make some important points about collaboration in a senior leadership team. We do like to do things differently, after all…
We’ll tell you more about it next time, but right now it’s time to put the kettle on and watch the rain.
*If you put milk in while the teabag is still in the cup we cannot be friends.
Need help with your events?
If you're looking to reconnect your team, kick off a return to the office or simply get everyone together, our engaging breakout sessions, team building and team development sessions are available - we will help you design and facilitate memorable conferences and events.
If you'd like to talk through your event plans, book your free event chat here.
Do you remember that “Back to School” feeling?
I can recall a twin sense of unfairness and inevitability when the big signs in shops advertising everything from pens and pencils to shoes to trousers and blazers seemed to appear only a couple of weeks into the summer holidays.
It wasn’t that I hated school – quite the opposite – but the sensation was unavoidable that the informality and freedoms of the summer break would be replaced shortly, probably on a chilly morning in September, with the routine of getting up, getting ready, going out and submitting to the strictures, routines, requirements, expectations and workloads of the return to school. Yes, there had been a break, but the return would be going back to exactly what had existed before.
In adult life, many people still admit to that “Sunday afternoon, getting ready for Monday morning” feeling… but, like many things, that has been adapted into something else by the enforced, prolonged restrictions of Covid-19.
There have been many light-hearted comments on social media about “not wanting the pressure of seeing people in person again” when all this is over. While this is - in most cases - a joke that exists as a counterpoint to the reality of missing pre-pandemic interactions, I believe that all flippant remarks such as this one have a grain of truth in them.
Which brings us to the impending feeling of “Back to School”, or, in this instance, “Back to Work”. As the pressure mounts to return to something like normal, people will be required, for at least a couple of days a week, to abandon their assorted “home offices” and the freedoms that these have brought, for their work communities.
For many organisations universal remote working is neither practical nor desirable as a long-term solution. It will certainly have its place, and it is a welcome variation to the tyranny of expectation of five-days-a-week-in-the-office culture that was so prevalent before, but, as Caroline Fairbairn of the CBI said last year, your can’t innovate the future of your business from the sofa. Hybrid working might become more universally accepted, but people need to interact with each other, to share ideas and socialise, albeit in a work setting.
So, if people are reluctant to return, or are returning with anxieties or concerns, what can you do to help them, and how can you turn the experience of the past year to your advantage?
At Colour;Noun, we believe that the answer is reboarding. Historically, many businesses have mechanisms in place to reintegrate employees who had been away from work for a long period, whether through sickness, sabbatical or maternity leave. In addition, new starters are routinely onboarded, to introduce them to the company culture, get them used to the expectations of their role and help them apply their skills and experiences in a worthwhile way so that everybody benefits.
It is our belief that smart organisations will see, in a period of reboarding, the potential in incorporating the experiences and insights that have been gained over the past year to benefit everyone and make positive transformations to the work environment. To understand why we think this we would like to point you in the direction of Antifragile -Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
The buzzword that has dominated the Covid response of many businesses is resilience, but resilience sets its standard, and its optimum achievement, to be bouncing back to a state that existed before. A rubber ball is resilient and will return to its previous form… but some things improve as a consequence of being stressed: muscle growth, broken bones, even the evolution of life itself to name but three.
One of the key points of this concept is embracing the setback. Exercised muscles hurt, broken bones come from trauma, and evolutionary changes occur when some organisms adapt better to changed circumstances than ones that do not survive - but the essential point is that they come back from stress better than before.
Everyone has been changed by what we have been through. There have been many stresses to business and society. Attitudes have undoubtedly been altered and new ways of working have been trialled and adopted. Embracing these changes – discussing them and unpicking the lessons that they hold - can make a huge difference to the experience of work and make that “first day back at school” feeling something to be excited about, rather than daunting. It may also make your business better and fitter than it was before.
Are you looking to reboard your team? Read more on our reboarding workshop offer here.
Colour; Noun (Vicky Holding and Howard Karloff)