Your Face Makes All the Difference

One Tip That Makes a Remarkable Difference

It is noon in Krakow.

While having lunch with a colleague in Cisco’s eCafe, I am approached by a man with a broad smile who strides up to me and gives me a warm handshake. “Lu Ellen, great to see you again. I heard your programs went well yesterday, and I was sorry to miss them. I just got in from Madrid.”

I have no idea who he is.

As he continues to talk, I steal a look at his badge.

Oh! This is Chris Kern, the manager who had hired me. I have never met him before. How does he know who I am? Feeling like I had just walked into the middle of a movie, I ask, “Chris, how did you recognize me?”

“I remember you and our conversation from the WebEx,” he replied.


However, I do not know what he is talking about. What WebEx? After he leaves, I turn to a colleague, “I still don’t understand how he knows me.”

“You must have done a video conference together.”

“No, we didn’t….Oh, wait….”

Now I remember. I was in the Mumbai airport, and we had a WebEx scheduled to introduce ourselves to each other and go over the upcoming program. But the bandwidth was low, and the buffering was irritating. I figured it was important for him to feel comfortable with me because I would be working with his team. Therefore, I kept my camera on so he could see me but asked him to turn his off to cut down on the buffering.

What we said in the conversation did not stick in my mind but, clearly, since Chris saw me on camera, he had a much sharper memory of the call.

It was startling to realize the differences in our perception just because one of us was using video.

Video adds a depth that texts and emails do not have.

We can read faces and get a real feel for what is going on.


This is not rocket science.

So why don’t we use the video option that we have on our phones and laptops? 

It takes more effort, and we tend to like things that are easy. We have to brush our hair and change out of the t-shirt that has the pasta sauce on the front of it. And mostly, we have to pay attention. With video, the person at the other end of the call could tell if we are texting, eating soup, answering email, or in my case, weeding the garden.

A colleague in India said the calls were at her nighttime, and she was concerned her four-year-old son would come in with something critical. (At four years old, every new discovery is urgent.)

So she kept her camera off.

I think this can be a mistake.

Sure, if you want to keep a more professional demeanor with a key customer, I get it. But most of your virtual interactions are probably with teammates. This is your life. That is your child. And it is 9 PM. Therefore, in my book, it is OK to let your global colleague see your life. If you worked side by side, they would have a better sense of who you are, what was important to you, what motivated you, and what made you cranky. All of this knowledge can make for a more effective team.

While having more one-on-one videos is not a panacea, it can make our global communication startlingly more effective.

It might even make those 9 PM calls quicker.


Disclaimer: Looking forward to your thought-provoking and constructive comments. Play nice. Comments are (quickly) moderated for the sanity of all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *