With the myriad of communication tools at our disposal today, there is no doubt that we are all communicating far more often and much more voluminously than ever before… But are we “connecting“? While both are mission critical to our success, there is a major difference between the two and keeping them in strategic balance is profoundly important.
Communicating is about letters, numbers, dates, times and the exchange of actionable information. It is about posting results and suggesting next steps. We “communicate” far more via email today than any other medium and there are a number of new conduits such as Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, etc. that also serve the varied purposes of communication. All of these forms of interaction are vital to the accomplishment of our goals and objectives, but few of them actually instigate or drive results.
In fact, the deluge of digital communication with which we are bombarded 24 hours and at the speed of thought has been likened to trying to get a glass of water from a fire hydrant. Often times despite the best intentions, communicating may achieve quite the opposite of what was intended.
▪ Instead of informing, it may distract and confuse.
▪ Instead of building trust, it may polarize.
▪ Instead of enabling results, it may waste valuable time.
There are many ways to improve upon communications. We consult on this regularly and offer a number of one day seminars and keynotes on just this subject dealing with more effective emailing practices, writing for results, leveraging new platforms like Twitter, etc. But to properly deliver these services we must “Connect” with an audience – and that requires real time, face-to-face interaction at a well planned and brilliantly orchestrated meeting.
Communication may be a two-way street but the participants are usually traveling in separate cars and often on different roads and at different times. Connecting, on the other hand, is a shared experience between two or more people. It is physical, emotional and very powerful.
▪ It is about shared belief, trust and excitement.
▪ It is about alignment and consensus around a brand, a category and the road forward.
▪ It is about leveraging the human capital of an organization in a way that is impossible to accomplish via email, Facebook, Twitter or any other text based conduit.
Connection is about recognition and reward. It is about challenge and leadership. It engages the company’s collective imagination and capacity to grow profitably. Connection is about putting an end to the silos and divisions that destroy progress and increase the cost of doing business.
Communication may be vital – but Connecting is clearly indispensable and without it, growth plans fall short, talent is driven away and organizations that fail to connect fail to prosper.
In the past several years many companies have shifted to communication versus connection because in these turbulent times, face-to-face meetings are perceived as too costly. Instead of connecting, companies communicate via email, podcasts and video conferencing. The recipients of these substitutions are often alone in their cubicle or their car and multi-tasking as the presenter drones on in the background. The presenter, on the other hand, has the dubious challenge of being glib, sincere, cogent and motivational as he or she stares into a camera lens instead of eye to eye with an audience of stakeholders who can make a difference. There is no visceral or “ah-ha moment”, no break time chat or “after-buzz”. No shared questions or on the spot answers. No fun, no focus, future. Nothing that builds trust, belief or understanding or for that matter; respect, empathy and admiration for the presenter. Without connection, there simply is no cause for commitment. Just the feeling that, “I’m glad that’s over and I can get back to the task that was interrupted when it started”.
In closing I will relate a recent experience that speaks volumes about the difference between communicating and connecting…
I recently spoke at an executive retreat where one attendee told me that he had been regularly emailing with a colleague who sat in an office 40 feet down the hall from his for 8 years. Before the retreat he admitted that he found his co-worker to be aloof, ill informed, detached and, based on his limited exposure, fundamentally ineffective and undeserving of his position. In fact, he joked, “I didn’t even know what he did till two years ago. All I knew is that he never got to the office before 8:30 AM and was usually still working weary eyed when I left which I thought was poor time management because it meant he’d have to fight the evening traffic.” And then the executive spoke somewhat emotionally about finding out that morning in a one-to-one breakout session that his co-worker drove his learning disabled son to school every day for the past 9 years and that he had dealt with a number of other tribulations over the years. He also learned that his coworker was instrumental in actions that led to the most important acquisition the company had ever made among several other major accomplishments one of which saved jobs – his being one of them. They had Communicated for years but they never Connected! By the time the meeting ended two days later, these two internal competitors became colleagues and made commitments to work together on a number of critical breakthrough projects. While the results are not yet in (keep checking back for updates), suffice it to say that when two experienced and motivated employees focus on a common goal, results are squared – not just doubled.
Communication is a poor substitute for Connection. In its many digital forms today it does more to separate and divide us than it does to unify and focus our efforts. Instead of thinking of company meetings as an expense, see them for what they are… The single most important investment a company can make in its ability to succeed and prosper.
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