In spite of living in a connected world, we are not connecting in matters of the heart.
We have smart phones and tablets to deliver instant access to email. Many of us boast about hundreds of Facebook friends and thousands of Twitter followers. We can text or call anyone, anytime, and from anywhere there is a wireless or Wi-Fi signal. Yet, we are yearning for human connection.
Mark C. Crowley, one of my favorite Twitter accounts, recently shared this enlightening tweet. “A new 3M global survey shows we’re all needing more #human #connection in our lives. 74% of respondents would rather have a human assistant over a robot. And despite living in a #socialmedia age, 9-in-10 of us would rather have 5 new friends than gain 5,000 new Facebook followers.”
We are paying a price for the convenience and scope of our digital world. How can we express empathy in an email? Where do we learn the art of listening if there is never a face-to-face conversation? Can we encourage creativity using only a computer screen and webcam? When was the last time we solved a real problem using a PowerPoint slide?
Despite inhabiting a digital world, Steve Jobs knew that spontaneous meetings and random discussions were necessary for breakthrough ideas to emerge. He designed workspaces that encouraged employees to naturally engage in chance encounters. He planned weekly executive team meetings without a formal agenda. His encouraged an atmosphere where problem-solving and learning could take place without constraints.
Human connection is necessary for leaders to learn about and practice empathy. Research suggests we can boost our capacity for empathetic understanding. Empathy helps us to understand another person’s thoughts feelings, and condition from his or her point of view. Leaders who practice empathy behave in a more compassionate way because their motivation comes from within.
In today’s stressful and uncertain environment leaders need the power of empathy. Rather than engage in endless email threads, gather your team for a conversation. Limit PowerPoint in favor of discussions. Build relationships over coffee or tea. Encourage impromptu meetings between teams that don’t generally work together. Call a customer instead of sending an email.
Digital communication encourages isolation. Abandon slide shows for spontaneous side shows.
Human connection and the power of empathy could reawaken your team’s creativity and energy. It’s also good therapy for every leader’s heart.
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