May 19, 2008

Good day, team,

This week, I learned about a situation that one of my friends is experiencing which I can only define as scary.  I’ll call it “management by electronic device.” My friend’s boss sent a series of e-mails, reprimanding him and his peers for not meeting a deadline and giving them strict orders to do very specific things to remedy the situation.

Frankly, I was appalled.  These two people work in the same location, and yet it seems that, with their travel schedules, their ability to see each other face to face is limited.  And, what surprised me most was that my friend’s boss didn’t even call him on the phone, but chose to use e-mail instead. Is it any wonder that people have trouble communicating, let alone trusting each other, when their major means of communication is through an electronic device?

Mobile devices are wonderful tools, but they are a mixed blessing. We’ve gotten so used to having mobile access that it becomes harder and harder to “get off the grid,” so to speak, and enjoy some peace and quiet.

Recently, my husband and I traveled to Mexico. We got on an airplane, flew for five hours, then rented a car and traveled for an hour and a half (the last six miles of which were dirt road) to a very remote place that uses solar panels, generators and propane to power itself.

When we went to check in, the owners of our hotel weren’t there, so we had to leave them a hand-written note and then, because we didn’t know what else to do, we went and had a beer. Computer and phone access is impossible there. What a relief! We left our laptops and cell phones behind as we enjoyed hour after hour of uninterrupted time on the beach and in the hammocks.

But here at home, I’ve gotten so used to carrying my cell phone wherever I go that it’s impossible for me to imagine what it would be like if I couldn’t call my clients on my way to meet them to confirm the appointment or find them if we end up in different places. Without a doubt, mobile technology has given me freedom I didn’t have before. I can be just about anywhere in the world and be in touch with clients, which is incredibly convenient. But when it comes to human interactions, phone contact pales in comparison to a face-to-face experience.

Your challenge this week is to increase the quantity and quality of your human interactions. Are you using your phone and e-mail so much that they’ve now become your major modes of communication with your co-workers? If that’s the case, build some time into your week so you can meet with people one on one or, at the very least, in a group.

If you travel a lot for your job, are you relying on your BlackBerry to be the main connection to your family? One of my clients sent text messages back and forth with his wife while he traveled. After he realized that he hadn’t actually spoken to her in awhile, he called and was surprised that she sounded so hoarse. When she told him she’d been fighting a cold for two weeks, he suddenly realized that he hadn’t spoken to her all that time. If you’re frequently out of sight, try using video conferencing or webcast technology to connect with people at home.

If you manage people, resist the urge to do it via e-mail. It’s degrading and, because tone of voice and facial expressions are absent on e-mail, your contacts’ ability to truly understand you is lost. Your message will come across as an instruction set, which is fine for computers but not human beings. And if you find that you’re one of those people who consistently uses emoticons on e-mail, it’s probably because you’re trying to express some feeling that would be much easier to convey in person. (Personally, those things remind me of Wal-Mart pricing specials 🙁 !)

Mobile technology has enabled us to communicate in many ways that we were unable to make use of just 20 years ago. It’s a wonderful tool. But the power of human presence is something that cannot be replaced. It fully empowers us and gives those around us the complete experience of who we are.

Have a great week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

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