Meet with a mission

Author: 
Paul Nolan

Much has been written about the irony of technology connecting people globally while simultaneously disconnecting us on a human level. My iPhone sends me a weekly report on how much screen time I logged and how that compares to the previous week. Up to this point, I haven’t stopped to consider how the screen time total correlates to the quality of personal connections I’ve had during the week. I’m going to start doing that.

My son and I watched the NBA finals a thousand miles apart. He’d text me a comment about something that happened and I’d reply. In game six, he complained about a foul that was called on a particular play (he’s especially frustrated with NBA referees these days), and I started to tap out my response when my phone rang. He was calling. The 22-year-old decided it made more sense to share our analysis verbally rather than through texts. I felt sheepish that it was his idea.

Ulrich Kellerer, a leadership expert and author, told Forbes, “When it comes to effective business communication, over reliance on technology at work can be a hindrance, especially when it ends up replacing face-to-face, human interaction.”

While digital methods are not inherently detrimental, it is our intensifying relationship with the digital environment that leads to unhealthy habits that not only distract us from the “present,” but also negatively impact communication effectiveness, Kellerer says.

“Face-to-face interaction is still by far the most powerful way to achieve business goals. Connection is critical to building business relationships. Anyone working in sales knows that personal interactions yield better results.”

Kellerer says Harvard research shows that face-to-face requests are 34 times more likely to garner positive responses than emails. In a different survey, 67% of senior executives and managers said their organization’s productivity would increase if superiors communicated face-to-face more often.

“Business leaders must create environments in which digital communication is used strategically and personal communication is practiced and prioritized,” Kellerer says. “Technology is a necessary part of business today, but incorporating the human touch is what will give businesses the competitive edge in the digital marketplace.”

Priya Parker, who is the focus of our cover story, has energized the meetings industry with her creative ideas on how to make gatherings more purposeful, in business and in personal interactions. It’s not enough to just come together, Parker says. It’s imperative to gather with purpose.

I’m going to start doing that more also.