The Danger of Taking Human Connection Out of How We Work
Written by Jordan Mercedes on December 3, 2018
When you forfeit human connection, you dilute the impact of the work you do and minimize the value of face to face (no screen) eyeball to eyeball connection. I’m not advocating turning in our slick 24/7 technology, (even though it makes me crazy at times). I’m reminding all of us of the danger of leaning too heavily on it and opting for screen time when we can walk down the hall and have an in-person conversation.
Tools are created to help us get things done. We can schedule appointments, send out newsletters even collaborate with the team and it’s all good, but it comes with a cost: human connection.
Why make a big deal about connection?
Because connection builds deep, sustainable, super glue trust. Trust is important in effective leadership and effective coaching. Here’s what I mean: technology will govern how far, long and deep we go with our connection to others. When you schedule a 45 min, video call, the connection depth is pre-set.
Get in, get out, get it done, especially if there are more than two people in the meeting.
What do you do when you’re looking at your team member, your staff, your customer on a video call and you notice something is off? Perhaps you do the cordial “how are you Bob?” Bob says fine, but you notice he’s not fine, he’s distracted, distant and seems to be a bit checked out. There’s no time to connect with Bob because you have 45 minutes to get things done. By the end of the video call, the work is done but you don’t know that Bob feels isolated. You put aside the things you perceived about Bob’s distance because you’re off to another video call. That’s just the way it’s done.
What are you losing by not slowing down and connecting with Bob? What does Bob’s distance mean? Is he disengaged, confused, angry, uninspired? Maybe none of these, but you don’t know because there was no time to ask.
Technology has made it possible to lead teams and groups who are on the other side of the world. That’s amazing. It has also presented us with the threat of losing the understanding that we are humans first. Every single person on the other side of the screen, text, group-collaboration is human and they need what we all need…connection.
I asked a group of coaches what makes them feel trust or connection to another person. Without hesitation, they all say that they trust when someone slows down enough to listen to them, to ask about them or when someone makes time for them. In other words, connection.
Think about this for a second.
Your company spends thousands of dollars recruiting talent, then more money training talent only to put them in an environment where they work alone, or at such a fast pace that it feels like they are working alone. The emphasis is on productivity, the blind spot is forgetting that productively and connection go together. For most, if there is no connection, then a feeling of meaning and satisfaction is lost.
How do you foster human connection in a tech-driven work world? Intentionally making it happen.
- When possible, meet with your team, clients, customers face to face. Go out of your way to be in the same space with them. Invite them to meet in your office, or you go to their office. Get in front of them even if it means taking them to lunch or getting on a plane, the investment is worth it.
- Don’t over estimate your own “wow” factor. It’s not enough to try to “wow” your team long distance by laughing and carrying on over video or instant messenger. None of your long-distance, tech driven cheerleading will take the place of real conversation…not in the long run.
- Be curious about what’s going on behind the scene for the ones you remotely engage. Slow down enough to notice or inquire about subtle shifts in them, take time to ask about them, if not in the moment, reach out later with just the two of you. I recently lead a new team on a project. When it was over, one of the team members said “I appreciate how you reached out to not just inquire about what we were doing, but how we were doing. You always wanted to know that we were okay and had what we needed to move forward. The pace was crazy but you always made time for the team”.
- Be human with your team. Tell them how you are doing, let them “in” a little so that they get to know you better. Again, rah-rah cheerleading can only last so long. They will trust you more when you connect and engage with them in a meaningful way. Oh, and by the way, this will not take a lot of time. It simply takes intention.
Remember what makes people tick. In the simplest form: connection and trust. Technology can be dangerous in your work but it doesn’t have to be. Using it means that we become mindful of real connection with real people. This one little awareness can save time and thousands of dollars in hiring and training resources.