People were meant to see each other’s faces, not hide behind a mask.
It’s not a matter of just being used to seeing each other; it’s a basic instinct of our natures.
You want to see who you are dealing with, and the human face – all of the face — tells you about the person.
Even in zoom or go-to-meetings where cameras are turned on, seeing a human face you are dealing with brings you the clues necessary to understand that person and the business at hand.
Nothing is more expressive…nothing more revealing.
Take the smile. Or the non-smile. When you throw out an idea in a business meeting and people wear masks, all ideas become expressionless statements.
Early in my career I was at an executive meeting, and the executives wore what at the time was the “executive look” – an expressionless stare with vacant eyes, no smile or indication they are even listening.
Now, with the mask, everyone has that stare.
At my first meeting in four months with a brand new client, I wore a mask. We all wore masks. We wanted to practice safety, and feel safe.
When the client initially asked if I would mind coming out to see them after having had two online meetings, I said, “Are you kidding? I’m not afraid of any virus.”
“Well we are,” said the client.
“Then I’ll wear three masks,” I replied, and we set up the meeting for a couple of weeks later.
I purchased a digital thermometer to take my temperature when I walked in.
“That’s a great idea,” said another client I told about my plan on visiting. “You’ll show them that you care.”
Which I did. But I was hoping to do away with the masks.
When I showed up, the thermometer wasn’t enough. I was asked to put on the mask.
So I did.
For two hours, we discussed the direction we should be taking with the marketing, The client had questions…statements…I offered some answers…made statements. . It was like other great meetings I’ve had over the years. Except it wasn’t. Something was different.
When a discussion ensued about handling leads from the upcoming marketing activities, and whether to direct the order to a distributor or take the order themselves. I said, “Why don’t you let the caller decide and ask him.” The president said, “That’s why you’re here,” and took a note.
That’s why I was there – to offer the outside point of view as I’ve done for the past 30 years. I’ve always been on the outside; that is the primary reason our clients use our organization. We think differently. And we get results.
But something was different about this meeting. As great as the idea exchange was, there was just something.
Wearing masks changed the entire atmosphere. You could feel it around the table despite the excellent discussion.
The fact is, how do you trust or gain trust with someone wearing a mask?
A mask is going to have a profound negative effect on the trust process. Without being able to see the person – and have the person see you — the ideas put forth will all come from behind masks.
Disguised, flat, missing some of the real meaning which facial expressions lend to the words. The human expression, which has always given energy to dialogue, will be gone. And wearing masks has brought out just how much of the meaning of words is enhanced by expressions in the face.
And while there is a certain truth expressed by our client that day – being together in a room physically, there’s nothing like it – wearing masks defeats the full realization of the idea exchange.
I wasn’t alone in this feeling that day. Privately, some of the attendees said quietly when I brought up my feelings about masks as I left, “I hate this too.”
In fact, when I followed up by phone the next day, the President also agreed: “Salesmen like us really need that face-to-face, not mask-to-mask.”
Let’s hope we can somehow overcome this mask-thing, this fear, maybe even invent a see-through mask.
In my live webinar two days before this meeting (the topic was on how to target and hit the right customer, special COVID-19 edition), one of the questions was: “My leadership is waiting for things to get back to “normal”. How do I leverage the Covid to get them to Flip the Switch, change strategy to the new normal?”
I answered that there is no such thing as “new normal” much less “normal.” I said, “Things will never be normal, and as far as new normal, the word ‘new’ is an adjective modifying ‘normal.’ So if it is not normal, it is abnormal. Welcome to today’s business climate!”
To which he responded, “Amen…. I’m headed to a corporate meeting. Talk to you later the next 48 hours.”
Hope he took his mask.