A few years ago during a leadership communication training I was conducting, one young participant challenged the need for better in-person communication skills.
He never talks with the people he works with the most. All communication is done via text or email. A phone call is rare and face to face, even via Skype, was non-existent.
This didn’t surprise me as he continued to talk and revealed his inability to effectively communicate in person.
For all the good that technology brings to us, there are greater and opposite ills as well.
Multiple studies have shown that as we become increasingly dependent on technology as a means of communication we lose touch with real people. There is great danger in that.
People were created for connection. They crave connection and meaningful relationships not only in their personal lives but professional as well.
As a leader, it’s critical that you protect, guard and promote personal interaction within your organization for the best results.
Digital communication can never replace in person, face-to-face, contact in building relationships – personal and professional. As a study by Harvard Business Review found, team performance went up 50% when teams socialized more and limited email for more operational only issues. ~ Forbes Magazine
Leadership and the personal connection
Why is it so imperative for leaders to maintain that personal touch?
People are emotional beings. We often are motivated and make decisions based on our emotion.
Great leaders tap into that emotion to move their people to action through human connection.
To feel valued and cared through personal connection with a leader is very emotionally satisfying and motivating.
The trouble with technology and communication.
1. Unused skills die. Worse yet, some skills may never develop.
When we don’t use a skill we become increasingly unable to use it effectively. It’s the classic use it or lose it scenario. When we begin to lose touch with real people, we don’t know what to do with real people anymore. This is particularly dangerous for leaders who lack social modicum to begin with.
Future leaders will undoubtedly grow up with technology in their hands. The biggest danger in that is that they may never learn how to effectively communicate. Studies show that too much tech too early will cause the communication regions of the brain to never fully develop. Never. Take the phone and the ipad out of the kids hands and sit them down with a book. Better yet, you sit down with them and read a book.
2. We don’t see the impact our words have on the recipient causing us to be socially inept and callous.
Two recent examples of this made headlines last week. When congressman Steve Scalise and others were shot during a baseball practice, social media comments became inhumane. Many were unthinkably callous. One in particular stood out that read, “I can’t muster empathy for them. I just can’t.”
Related: Press Pause
The second example was in the case of Michelle Carter, 20, who was found guilty of committing involuntary manslaughter by using text messages to encourage her boyfriend to kill himself.
Obviously extreme examples but sitting behind the safety of the screen allows people to say whatever they want with complete indifference to the feelings of others. It allows people to forget that the person on the receiving end is just that, a person.
Funny how we see examples of empathy in the animal kingdom between unlike species that we don’t see between human beings who think differently.
3. People are more disconnected with themselves.
Studies have shown that people, especially the younger crowd, use social media to escape spending time with themselves. Leaders cannot afford this disconnect. One of the traits of great leaders is their ability to be introspective to understand how to make themselves better for the greater good. The more disconnected with ourselves we become, the greater the danger in never developing great leadership.
What to do about it:
1. Go for a walk.
Monday morning, get to work early so that when your people arrive, you can greet them. Talk with them about their weekends. Give them some encouragement for the week ahead.
Instead of popping off an email, walk two feet to the next office or cubicle to talk with someone in person.
2. Pick up the phone.
Instead of sending a text, call the person and talk live on the phone, like the old days.
3. Be an opportunity maker.
Create opportunities for your people to connect both in the office and outside of the office. Having one more meeting is not what this is about. Do something fun in the break room and invite everyone to come. Have an offsite team-building event for people to get to know one another better. Just be intentional in getting your people face-to-face.
4. Hire a coach.
Improvement comes with identifying your blind spots and correcting them. Without an outside perspective, you will continue on doing what’s not working, oblivious to the negative impact you’re having on your team and your life. A coach will give you the perspective and accountability you need to get to the next level both personally and professionally.
What have you found that has worked for you in warding off the communication dangers of technology?
For further reading on the topic of decision-making and how our brains work, I highly recommend the following:
- Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnman
- Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
- Drive by Daniel Pink
- Decisive by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
- Irresistible by Adam Alter
Copyright © 2017 Kaylene Mathews. All rights reserved.