We live in a very connected world. However, most of those connections are virtual. It has become a rarity to actually meet with someone in person. After all, it costs money to be physically present. And with phone, video and screen sharing all available at a small cost, it makes more sense to just have a conference call.
Except I’m feeling disconnected. I have been lucky in many positions to have had the ability to meet with my team in person to discuss and create plans. I was also able to physically visit many prospective and current clients so I could present them with options and have face to face conversations on what their challenges were and how we could overcome them.
Now, I found myself in a position where the majority of my co-workers either work remotely or are not in the same city so there’s really no opportunity to interactive except via phone and email.
I do believe there is great insight into body language. However, the seven percent rule isn’t actually valid and has been misquoted for decades. Without a lot of the physical cues that go along with verbal communication, it’s often hard to interpret an individual’s motivation, position and drive. Without looking someone in the eyes, I feel that I may never truly connect with them. But maybe that’s just me. I’ve never been someone who could be truly engaged with someone just from emails or texts or even phone calls. I could never make long distance work for a romantic relationship, and I couldn’t fall in “love” via social media.
Lots of people telecommute every day and have no challenges. They work with people all over the world that they will never meet. I’m not saying I’m right or they are wrong. Everybody just collaborates differently. What I will say is there is real value in in-person meetings; especially at the beginning of a working relationship. In-person meetings make you really show up. You’re not distracted or multi-tasking. You are present (something that seems almost mythical these days). In-person meetings also remove all those conversation blunders of conference calls where everyone talks all over everyone else to the point where you don’t know if you can make a comment just to get interrupted.
Technology has made it easier to interact with people all over the world. It’s saving companies money, but is it making us more productive? Is it building camaraderie? Is it permeating trust? I don’t claim to have all the answers; I can only say that people on the other end of the headset is lonely. It’s lonely to have very little personal interaction during the work day. This may be exactly what a programmer or analyst needs to be productive. But as a creative person, I simply feel isolated. Marketing isn’t really a one-person job. It’s nice to have different personalities and perspectives when fleshing out ideas. Success is rarely about individual effort. People who are really dialed into each other and work well can accomplish amazing things. I know because I’ve been part of teams like this.
Ultimately, we all have different work styles and all learn differently. But if you have an option, meet face to face, shake hands and connect in a good old-fashioned way.