I was researching something on the internet yesterday and found myself being asked to register at yet another website. I must have hundreds of passwords now, even though I probably had just a handful just five years ago. I don't think I'm doing any more information gathering than I was then, but now everything's automated self-service. I guess nobody wants to know me anymore.
I think this trend is a problem, especially within organizations. In many companies, you go online to get your pay stub, request training, schedule your shift, give 360 reviews, and schedule meeting rooms. In some companies, your team is virtual and your only contact with each other is via email. And in many institutions of higher education some courses are only available online. I'm sure all these measures are economical, but I have to wonder what effect they have on the ability and desire of people to work together and inspire each other.
We know that when two people communicate in person, most of the information exchanged is non-verbal. Some of it is facts and details, but the majority is affect – the feelings that make people want to work together or not. In face-to-face encounters, individuals develop a sense of personal and mutual identity. And the less face-time we have, the harder it is to connect with each other and with the organization.
So there's a price paid for economy, and it's not limited to business. Our entire society is moving away from face-time. I heard a story just last night about my friend's teenage son who plays poker with his friends online. When they play, each is at his own home. They're all connected online, with audio and video, to the game they're playing together. My friend, whose childhood occurred in another era, provocatively asked his son why the friends don't get together at someone's house to play. The response: "That's not the way we do it, Dad."
It's hard to argue with the economics of automation and electronic access. And we can't really fight cultural evolution. But we can be aware of the communal and personal losses due to these trends. And we can do something about them in our own lives. My favorite suggestion is to make better use of the in-person encounters we do have. It's so easy to share facts and details electronically, why not devote more of our face-time to learning how we feel about them?
The funny thing is that discussing feelings actually has business benefits. That's because feelings often lead us to important business-related information we would never have noticed otherwise. You can see this phenomenon in action right now, if you're willing to play a one-minute game.
Imagine dedicating yourself, in your business leadership role, to discussing feelings with your colleagues at every opportunity. How does that prospect make you feel? Seriously… give yourself thirty seconds to fully appreciate your feelings about that prospect.
Are you apprehensive about it, anxious, fearful, eager? Now, do you have any idea why you feel that way? Give yourself another thirty seconds to be aware of your ideas.
What ideas came up? Did you notice a skill you don't have? An external obstacle you'd been hoping would go away? If so, you've discovered another path for personal career growth. Not bad for sixty seconds, is it? All you have to do now is follow that path. (And don't forget to breathe!)
This article has been selected for syndication in EzineArticles.