Tech has made life simpler and better for many, saving us hours each day.
Maybe you’ve reduced the need to commute to the office or to visit clients. A five-word WhatsApp message saves a five-line email. A five-line email saves a five-minute phone call. A five-minute Skype call saves a one-hour face-to-face meeting. We build networks online without having to show up at a single networking event. And we can monitor, judge, and comment on the activities of our family, friends, and frenemies on social-media from the comfort of our sofa or bed.
Great for tech, and great for time. But disastrous for trust.
Because building trust is a contact sport.
Physical proximity and emotional closeness make it easier to build trust. Distance makes it harder. Think about it – it’s easier to develop a relationship with a colleague that you see and speak to every day than with someone you email daily but only see every few months. And if you’ve ever tried to conduct a long-distance love affair ….. well, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
So how can you exploit the benefits of tech without sacrificing the much-more-valuable benefits of trust? By using your tech judiciously and mindfully. Here are three practical ideas to get you started:
- Walk or Talk?Instead of automatically sending an email or message, consider picking up the phone (Yes, mobile phones do allow you to make calls to another number!) Sure, it might take a few minutes more in the short term, but now you’re starting to build a relationship and not just an email trail. Better still – instead of making a phone call, how about this: walk over to your colleague’s desk and talk to them. Crazy, I know.
- Meet People.Why do so many of us show up at a meeting only to spend most of the time on our laptops? Meetings are for meeting people – let our laptops ‘meet’ each other on their own time. So, if you join a meeting, JOIN it. Eyes up, ears open. Listen, talk, contribute, chat, laugh, leave. Your emails will wait. And if you can’t be mentally present at the meeting, at least have the honesty not to try to fool your colleagues with your physical presence. If you don’t need to be there, stay away. But if you attend, be there. Fully.
- Open Door andOpen Mind. Like most managers, you probably operate an open-door policy. (This is a safe bet: I’ve yet to hear a manager boast of a ‘closed-door’ policy). So why do so many employees complain that it’s hard to talk to their managers? It’s about access. Access is less about your door being open, and more about your mind being open. Regardless of what you say, you signal your unavailability with your body language and actions. When you always appear busy, rushing around the office or when you grimace subtly when an employee asks for a minute of your time, you send a clear message – I don’t have time for you. When you scan your emails while ‘listening’ to an employee’s question or keep glancing at your screen while they are sharing an idea or break eye contact to investigate why your phone just bleeped, your message is clear: “I’ve got important things to think about right now – and you’re not one of them.”
The solution? Be present. If now is not a good time, say so, and suggest a better time to talk. Otherwise, stop what you’re doing, sit back, relax, and enjoy the conversation. Now, your message is clear: “There is nothing else I’d rather do right now that talk with you.”
Many of us worry that we will be replaced by bots, yet we are sleep-walking our way to obsolescence by downgrading and neglecting the few skills which are unique to living, human managers: Empathy. Humour. Likeability. Humanity. Trust.
Keep your tech in its proper place and leave the harder, softer stuff to the true expert: the living, breathing, high-trust human manager.