As the pandemic continues to rage on—hello Omicron!—yet offices slowly begin to open up, a new power pyramid is emerging.
The harsh truth is that people are starting to prioritize who they meet with when it comes to meetings.
If you’re an account executive on a sales team, this isn’t news. You already know what I’m referring to. You have existing clients and those that aren’t yet your customers. You want to meet with both types of clients, and you’d certainly rather do so by meeting them face-to-face. It’s how it’s always been done.
Building “new logo” relationships can be quite tricky over Teams, WebEx or Zoom when you’re not witnessing body language, or you’re unable to buy them a cocktail or lunch.
It’s not like you can send a drink cart over to that person’s home as a way in which to break the ice about your product stack.
As people are ever-so-slowly inching their way back into the office, many people will begin to operate by working one, two or maybe three days a week. And with that reduction in office time, there is a corresponding decrease in the amount of available time to meet with people face-to-face.
And when there is less time to meet people face-to-face, it reasons to stand that office leaders and employees are prioritizing time differently than before the pandemic.
Some might even prioritize time with their peers over opportunities to be sold something by an account executive from a company they don’t know.
I attended my first face-to-face conference in 21 months this past month in Los Angeles. While it was great to finally meet people, swap stories, and have a few cocktails with live human beings, I made certain that almost every one of my conversations asked the question: how are you prioritizing your face-to-face time when in the office?
Those in sales—without any real difference in opinion—were feeling the difficulty of maintaining or building face-to-face relationships. “Nobody wants to meet me face-to-face because they think it’s easier to have meetings with me virtually,” said one account executive to me. “And what am I to do? Tell them they’re wrong?”
A couple of high-tech partners that I spoke to shared the same verdict. “We’ve conducted all of our meetings virtually for 20 months now,” said a leader, “and our clients see no reason to meet face-to-face.” She went on to say, “That’s their choice, not ours. But we’ve met this week face-to-face only because we’re both at this conference. And we have no future plans to meet face-to-face.”
Canvassing opinions from a group of practitioners and leaders, they unanimously stated that time in the office was being dedicated to brainstorming, creative thinking, training, one-on-one and team meetings, and other opportunities to bond. “We won’t have time to do anything else,” said one of the leaders I was speaking with.
Another was bold enough to tell me that there are certain internal meetings (and people) that are continuing to be virtual because they don’t want to waste their valuable face-to-face time on the “soul suckers of my time.” (Sidebar: I really liked that line.)
As we begin to sort out our hybrid working models, there are a few apparent elephants in the room to point out when it comes to conducting our time going forward:
- How are you prioritizing time with members of your direct team?
- What about team members on other teams or business units? Will you meet with them face-to-face, or is it a virtual-only mantra that you’re adopting?
- And when it comes to people who do not directly work in your organization (sales, partners, suppliers, ambassadors, consultants, contractors, agencies, etc.), have you subliminally adopted a “they’re not worthy of my face-to-face time” ideology?
If I were you, I’d be spending some time crafting my own personal norms regarding how I want to be known when I’m in the office.
Don’t be that person who has instituted an invisible face-to-face meeting hierarchy. Instead, find an approach that is measured, balanced, and uses fairness when it comes to your time in the office.
You might be unknowingly ruining your reputation, let alone missing out on crucial opportunities that advance your understanding of how best to perform in your role.