Face to Face

Gerwig 2014-11-17

Have you recently conducted an inventory of the “devices” you have around you? For the picture above, I decided to grab the devices that I knew were within 15-20 feet of me. Granted, at the time, I was sitting at my desk. I wasn’t outside cutting the grass or in the shower. What you see pictured represented probably 30% of the devices that reside within my immediate family (currently totally two adults and a high school student).

There is an iPhone, an iPad, a MacBook Air and two laptops (or netbooks), both Acer products. This doesn’t count our primary desk/home computer (a Dell), my work laptop, two additional iPhones, a mini iPad, a Kindle fire, a Kindle Paperwhite and two additional iPads. Honestly, I’m probably missing a couple devices.

We’re wired. Rarely are we without connectivity, Wi-Fi, 3G/4G, cable modem, smart phone, Apple TV and on and on. We check texts, Snapchats, FaceBook updates, Instagram posts, news, the weather and the like throughout the day. We often leave our thick, heavy Bibles at home on Sunday and, instead, use a Bible app on our phone or tablet.

Yes, it’s nice to be connected. We can check directions to a friend’s new loft, verify the location of a restaurant (and check its ratings), write our weekly blog article (which I’m currently doing on my iPad while traveling), stay on top of work commitments 24×7 (which is a requirement in today’s world like it or not) and, in general, do life more effectively when we’re connected.

Yes, I’m old enough to remember when two-way pagers were a big deal, when it was hip to send messages via Prodigy, when couples wrote and sent letters to each other (stamp upside down of course!) and when you timed the minutes when you talked to someone long-distance because each minute was expensive. When I left home and began life as a university student, I was allowed one 10 minute call per week to my parents (for a homesick 17 year old kid, that 10 minutes went by very quickly!).

No, I don’t want to return to the “good old days.” Who would?!!! But I do believe, strongly, that there is a time and place to stop texting and talk with someone face-to-face, a time to follow-up an email with a face-to-face dialogue. It’s not one or the other, it’s ‘both and” – as it most always is.

If you know me at all or read my weekly leadership article, you’ll know I always, always, come back to two things, communication and decision-making. This week it’s communication. Not a week goes by, rarely even a day, where I experience first-hand the convenience and danger of over-reliance on asynchronous communication, even online chatting is dangerous if used exclusively. Did I see the negative consequences this of over-relying on email and texts? Yes. Do I see it every week? Yes.

There are some topics, because of their sensitivity, complexity or timeliness, that require a face-to-face talk. Get out of your office and go talk, face-to-face. Go ahead and text them, if you want to say, “I’m coming to see you.” But don’t be lazy. Don’t assume you can communicate as effectively via text as you can face-to-face. Studies vary regarding the % of communication that is conveyed non-verbally. But it’s “a lot” – well over 50%. Use text and email in conjunction with face-to-face communication, not to its exclusion. Gestures, facial expressions and overall body language all communicate significant amounts of information.

One final thing. Don’t be one of those people who will say something in an email or text they wouldn’t say to the other person’s face. That’s a problem, a big problem. Either they’re intimidating you or you’re crossing a line you shouldn’t cross whether or not you’re face-to-face. When you put something in a email, text or other electronic format, remember two things: 1) Don’t put something in an electronic format that you wouldn’t want others to see (it basically sticks around forever) and 2) Don’t say something you wouldn’t say to the other person’s face.

Want to be a great leader? Be a great communicator! Use text, messaging, email and the like as appropriate, but don’t forget to use face-to-face communication as well, often on sensitive, timely, confidential and potentially controversial topics.

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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