Why does my dog look me in the eye? He could look at my ears, my nose, my shoulders, etc.; but for whatever reason he looks into my eyes. And why does he cock his head a bit sideways when he is focused on trying to understand what I am saying? And finally, why I am spending so much time thinking about these types of things?
First, I am thinking about weird and different stuff because of COVID. I am noticing things I have never noticed before and that is one of the very good things that has come out of these challenging times. I think my dog and all animals know to look into our eyes because they know that eyes are the key to connection and communication. I think my dog cocks his head sideways because he is trying as hard as he can to listen and understand me. We can learn a lot from these behaviors.
I have had about a million virtual meetings, just like everyone else, and the one thing I really dislike about them is that no one looks anybody in the eyes. I can look at the camera, so everyone thinks I am looking in their eyes, but then I do not get to see other people’s eyes. If I look at the other participants eyes, they do not get to look into my eyes. Technology has come a long way, but they still have not invented a camera that can follow your eyes. I guess that is why I got so focused on my dog’s eyes and the pleasure I have gotten from our eye contact. As you know roughly 60% of human communication is through body language, 30% is through voice intonation, and only 10% is through what is actually said. It would not be hard to argue that the most important part of body language is your eyes. That is what you are mostly looking at in any person to person interaction (or person to animal). You know how I know when I have done something wrong? You got it, my wife’s eyes. Frankly, I can tell way more from her eyes than what she says. All animals use body language to assess their surroundings; trust, fear, and comfort to name a few. Since eyes are the most important “tell”, that is why dogs look at your eyes.
Listening to actual words has also taken on a new meaning during COVID. I need to cock my head sideways more because it is harder to read body language on the computer screen and even noticing intonation can be hard in this virtual world. I must listen to the words more to tune out the dogs, kids, and interesting visuals that come along with virtual meetings.
Another thing I have learned is how productive I can be working away from the office; you are not interrupted so you can stay focused, you have more usable time due to no car time or ad hoc discussions, etc. Before COVID I would check emails and may have done some busy work when I was not in the office, but I did not do a lot of real heavy brain work like I do now. I have also noticed how mentally exhausting it is when I work off site. So why is that? I think it is because when you work off site, you get very few breaks, so you have many straight hours of intense brain activity. That is very tiring to this old boy. So, most people would say that more productivity is the way to go so why not work off site all the time. Seems easy right?
As with all things there are two sides to the story. Being mentally tired every day is not great for my marriage and not being in the office is not good for collaboration or culture building. Out of the one million virtual meetings I have had, I have not had one that has produced as many new ideas and free flowing collaboration as my normal in person collaborations. I am going to suggest that is because people need full communication, body language, intonation, and voice to be the most effective when collaborating. That total communication, and especially eye contact, are critical when building culture. It creates trust, energy, and connection like the dog assessing his surroundings.
My point is that there are real positives to working off site and there are real positives to in person collaboration. It is going to be important for all of us to strike that proper balance to take advantage of both benefits. I am guessing that there will be some combination of off-site work and in person collaboration. I think we will land at some set times in the office for everyone and the rest is up to the individual.
New Things Learned
This has been a historic time and I am really proud of the CGR team. Our business fell off a cliff in April. We implemented new safety protocols, reviewed numerous financial models, and overhauled our business operations. As the year wraps up, I can honestly say we have exceeded my expectations. We have grown, persevered, and laughed a lot, in lieu of crying. I will be happy to see COVID go, but I will look back and be thankful for the numerous new things I have learned and contemplated because of it.
CGR really appreciates our connection to our associates, customers, and suppliers and I personally appreciate everyone that decided to read this and experience my attempt at being a psychologist. Have a great holiday season and for what it is worth, I really love my dog!