I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all of the different tools we have to communicate. The following is a sample of what I use on a daily basis:
- Social Media – Blogging, Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, etc…
- Webinars, Podcasts
- Instant Messaging
- Video (Skype)
- Face-to-face meetings
I find it interesting that people are so passionate about their favorite methods and choose to ignore others. Is has always seemed to me that each tool has a purpose, but can also be abused. There are people in my office who absolutely refuse to use instant messaging because they believe that it is a “waste of time”. Others are so passionate about it, they use it throughout the entire day. Some of these decisions are generational and others are personal. Either way, I find it an interesting phenomenon.
My son pleaded with my wife and me for a year before we agreed to get him a cell phone. It seemed like an extra expense that we didn’t need, but my wife convinced me that it would make her life easier given school, sports, play-dates and all of the driving back and forth that she needs to perform. The ironic part is that when I review his statements, he is averaging less than 50 minutes of talk time a month. However, he is texting upwards of 3000 times a month. It is no secret that teenagers text far more than they talk.
At work, I am on my computer 80% of the time. I wrote a prior blog where I described that my son seriously thought that I “did email for a living”. One could argue that I do… However, I find that I am far more efficient communicating in a virtual world with people all over the world through email, instant messaging, online blogging, chat-rooms and other forms of communication than I ever could face-to-face or over the phone. A decade ago, I was traveling 4 out of 5 days a week. Now, I rarely travel. I can also remember a time when I wore a headset and was on the phone almost all day long. Now, I am on the phone probably 10% of the day. Phone communication has been replaced primarily with email and instant messaging.
There is a pretty strong argument that virtual communication is creating alienation. Business relationships that are created out of face-to-face communication are being replaced with electronic communication. The ability to form strong bonds by listening to each other’s stories about their weekends, their children’s sporting events and summer vacations are being replaced with short emails and text messages. However, you cannot argue with the efficiency of these tools.
Tom Peters published a book in 1982 entitled “In Search of Excellence” where he introduced the term MBWA, or “management by wandering around”. Essentially, it argued that you need to be out of your office and engaged in the business to be an effective manager. Almost 30 years later, many of us find ourselves “managing through a keyboard” (MTAK). It is far easier to instant message a colleague in the office next to me to find out when the next board meeting will be held, than to get up, walk over and spend 15 minutes in small-talk to get the same answer. However, it causes us to sit in our offices all day long without nearly as much human interaction.
It wasn’t that long ago, that I would spend 80% of my day in the corporate conference room sitting in meetings. Now I spend 80% of my day at my desk and 20% of my day in meetings. Again, I believe that my efficiency has increased, but am I missing data that I would have normally picked up if I had called more face-to-face meetings? The answer is probably, “yes”.
When I think of all the forms of communication at my disposal, I can’t help but believe that the secret is in “balance”. As my wife constantly reminds me, “everything in moderation is usually the best answer”. In this case I believe that she is right.
Action Item: Explore and learn the tools that are available to you. Determine how to maximize your efficiency by creating the right balance. Each tool has a unique benefit, and when applied appropriately can provide significant value. However, remember it takes an effort to ensure that the tools are being used appropriately and not being abused.
As my son would say, “THX 4 LSTNG 2 MI POV. WIL RIT MOR NXT WK – L8R”
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