Virtual calls were thrust upon the world during the pandemic and leaders everywhere learned the many benefits of engaging via video. The time flexibility and the opportunity to work from any location will make virtual communication hard to displace. Add to those advantages the reduction of work commute time and the ability to gather people quickly anywhere in the world, and virtual calls are here to stay.
Yet, the best leaders know the benefits of face-to-face interaction can never fully be displaced by anything that mediates the physicality of being present. Not only do we see more of the authentic self through the cues and style others display, but the ability to exchange feedback, think creatively and instill trust are buoyed by face-to-face communication in a way virtual contact can’t replicate.
This is borne out by a common occurrence happening across the planet as people see each other physically for the first time after dozens of virtual calls. With new relationships formed during the physical separation required by the pandemic, grounded in two years and more of frequent video communication, when people come face-to-face they commonly say, “Great to finally meet you.” After hours of previous conversations, that statement is almost comical. Yet, it confirms that we don’t feel as if we really know the essence of people until we look eye-to-eye and exchange all the cues of human communication.
A hybrid model of mediated and direct communication is definitely here to stay, as the advantages of both overwhelm the singular choice of one over the other. But those who dismiss the need for face-to-face interaction within teams and between leaders and team members underestimate the power of what it really means to understand each other. Some things never get old.