Editor's Note: I enjoy driving because, quite often, I do some of my best thinking during that time. Read on and enjoy. As always, you can find all my blog posts from 2013 to the present on my website at http://stevemarshallassociates.com/steves-blog/
Two days ago, I was driving past my town's utility department and I remembered I had a power bill to pay. But, instead of turning in and paying it, I decided to just wait and do it online when I got back to my office. That started this train of thought about communication and technology.
Communications technology will free us from menial tasks to tackle more important tasks!
Has it, really? And, if so, at what cost? The first thing that comes to mind for me is that I talk less to people and do more of the communication I need to do via the second dimension - social media, text, email, etc. The human cost of that is actually crippling, I believe, because our communication has now become so one-sided and stilted with much room left for misunderstanding and error.
Check your cell phone bill
Now, if you are not buying my premise above, look at your cell phone bill and tell me how much data you used vs. how many minutes you used on your voice plan. Surprising, huh? I use at least twice as much data as I use voice minutes on average and sometimes when I am really busy, the ratio is more like 3:1.
Has this ever happened to you?
I swear that a day doesn't go by in my work with clients that I don't hear about flame wars between keyboard crusaders in a workplace tossing cyber bombs back and forth via email or text. I then always ask the question, "To what end? How did that work out for you (or her, him, or them)?" The answer is sometimes long in coming, but when it does, it is usually expressed with anger first, followed by sheepishness, and then if I continue to press the point, by regret. I believe that there is no good outcome that ever transpires from one of these types of exchanges; in fact, the outcome is always hurt feelings and a damaged workplace relationship. Is that type of interaction contributing to the success of the enterprise or organization? No.
What's the fix for this, Steve?
I have great respect for a gentleman I once worked with whose favorite saying was, "The long way is the short way." At first, I was puzzled by his statement, but then, when I thought about it some more, I realized he was saying that there are no easy fixes in life when it comes to the complexity of human engineering (and may other things). Rephrasing the above could also bring you very quickly to, "Do it right or don't do it all."
Putting it all together
What's sorely missing from today's world of instant communications is real communication; two or more people talking together and listening to each other carefully and actually engaging in conflict to reach a resolution on issues that are common to or affect one another. By conflict, I do not mean, "Whatever" or "Do what you want" or "I'll do it my way and you do it yours." Those are actual conflict styles, but not ones that lead to a good resolution for the good of a company or a team. Those three styles, in order of their occurrence, are Avoidance, Accommodation, and Compromise. What's missing from that set are the counterbalances to those three styles, Competing, and, Collaborating. The makeup of a well-oiled team will have a good representation of all of those styles (except avoidance) with the leader usually being best cast as the compromiser. Knowing and understanding the conflict styles of a team is a good way to start building the fundamentals of trust and high performance for a team.
To what end?
Given that we have the ability to communicate via our current technology with anyone, anywhere on our planet, isn't it a surprise that the #1 gripe I get in any strategic business audit that I perform is, "Poor communication?" Pushing the "send" button is not effective communication, talking to one another is. There is no substitute for the richness of experience of people's lives brought together in an exchange of ideas and information because it is truly three dimensional and pushing, "send" is only two.
Here is what I want you to do today!
Pick up the phone and talk to someone you haven't spoken with in awhile; better yet, go meet with them and connect. It is part of what makes us feel alive and part of the fabric of life.
Next Week: More of the crazy s*#t I think about.