Written by Chuck Bowen
Are You Cpnnected?
Coming from working senior positions in the high-tech industry, I knew this would happen. People are connecting … just not to each other.
Before I opened my coaching practice fulltime I was an executive with several technology companies, many based in Silicon Valley, CA. We were on the “bleeding edge” of delivering what we now know as commonplace technology — highspeed Internet, wireless services, websites, Wi-Fi, texting, etc. Even then, I began wondering what would become the fruit of our labor. I feared the worst happening.
It is. And not only with technology companies.
Employees are so plugged in that they are tuning out each other. In many meetings, participants were distracted by their Blackberries, laptops, smart phones and the like so they just weren’t “all there”. Beyond being rude, it’s causing all sorts of organizational dysfunction.
People have begun making more eye contact with their devices than each other. We’ve even coined phrases such as “CrackBerry” to describe our maladies. San Francisco design firm Adaptive Path created the phrase “topless” describing their meeting requirements to leave their laptops at their desks. I’ve embraced a similar approach for onsite meetings with my business coaching clients: I no longer bring my laptop along, rather choosing to take my notes by hand and giving even more attention to my client’s needs.
I’ve also noticed the desire to unplug from each other almost altogether. It’s so disturbing when I see co-workers choosing to email 90% of the time rather than pick up the phone — or walk across the room — to share an idea or work out a problem. While many justify using email as a timesaver, we’re discovering that it actually takes longer to come to a decision or agree on a new method using “bursty” communications (email, texting, etc) than the old tried and true method of … talking.
The results of using sterile communications such as email are that they are often misunderstood (think about the messages you receive IN ALL CAPS), since it is very difficult to express emotion accurately when body language, tone and even touch are absent. To understand, think about getting a notification that your job has been eliminated by email or face-to-face. Personal, empathetic, human interaction is hard to beat. Are you connected – really?
So, what’s the “So What”? Here are a few ideas to improve if your business is suffering from “people-itis”:
- Ban laptops, cellphones, Blackberries, etc from your meetings.
- Learn how to run effective meetings. Don’t make the mistake of eliminating meetings altogether as some sort of knee-jerk response. Meetings are time to connect, solve problems, communicate important information, and give updates.
- Talk with people either in person or via the phone. This will also eliminate much of the email overload you’re getting.
- Turn off automatic email checking on your Apple Mail, Outlook or other email program. Schedule specific times of the day, say 10a and 3p to check and respond to email. This will help you get your day started with your highest priorities. Give people an alternative way to contact you for true emergencies.
- Creatively reward your people for how well they communicate and the results they achieve doing so. If you detect that people are avoiding each other or hiding behind technology, call them out and nip it in the bud. If you don’t, it will fester until you have a full-blown “personality conflict” on your hands and a permanent hurdle to your business.
Decide now to re-acquaint yourself with your coworkers and employees. Put technology in it’s proper place, and create a truly connected workplace!