Since this article was first published on Forbes.com in December of 2019, COVID-19 hit and changed business changed dramatically. Leaders had to adjust to remote teams and leading through Zoom meetings.
I’ve been working with businesses and organizations to help leaders navigate this abrupt change and actually thrive in this ‘new normal’.
For most of human history, communication has been face-to-face. Before there was clay tablets, pens, paper, email, or Slack, the only way to talk to one another was… to talk to one another. This was true in business even a few decades ago – to get things done, you either spoke in person or on the phone.
Over time, new technologies have changed the way we communicate. We are much more likely to send out an email or text message to a client, rather than speak with them face-to-face – or on the phone. It’s faster and easier.
Is this a good thing?
It has never been easier to connect with others and send messages, but this also means that it’s never been easier to get things wrong. A single misinterpreted message, an unclear email, or an overlooked thought can mean that entire projects go off the rails.
Technology accelerates the pace of everything – especially misunderstandings and misinterpretations. It’s so easy to misconstrue well-meaning messages if they’re delivered using the wrong medium… or at the wrong time… or when the recipient is in a bad mood, and the sender has no way to anticipate this.
Communication should lead to progress
Communication should ultimately result in a more productive understanding, especially in business. Effective communication is what helps you gain agreement, share your ideas, sell things and generally achieve your objectives. Most importantly, it strengthens and maintains key relationships.
We’ve developed a variety of advanced tools intended to make communication easier than ever. From collaboration tools such as Office 365, Google Docs and Trello, to Skype for Business, email and more, it’s never been easier to connect with other people.
Note that we said easier. Easier doesn’t mean better.
When we communicate with others on the phone or in person, it is more purposeful. We tend to focus on expressing ideas, listening to others and coming to an understanding.
Modern tools enable content to be shared on-the-fly, in bite-sized messages and even through emojis. Many of these barely qualify as fully-formed thoughts. Many confuse and incite, rather than educate and inform.
Technology makes everything faster, especially miscommunication.
But the trend is obvious: technology keeps bringing us new ways to interact. For example, video tools such as FaceTime are increasing in popularity. In business, video is taking a more frequent seat at the conference room table. Platforms such as Zoom and WebEx are taking us back to the face-to-face conversations of the past with today’s technologies.
The next generation of “face to face” conversations and meetings promise to bring holograms, 3D technology and virtual reality to meeting rooms – further blending virtual meetings with real ones.
When you evaluate such options in the future, please ask yourself this question: speed and ease aside, does this increase the odds that I will form and maintain stronger relationships?
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