Pressing the Flesh

Posted by on January 25th, 2013

There’s no Substitute for Face-to-Face Interactions

Last night my team and I had an opportunity to break bread with the CEO, CMO, head of public relations and various other senior executives from one of our client companies.  The mood was festive as we celebrated the CEO’s birthday as well as a milestone achievement for the Company.  Although this was the first time our collective teams had gotten together face-to-face, it was as if we had known each other for years.  Everyone was in good spirits and a great time was had by all.

As I took a cab back to my apartment, I got to thinking about how drastically interpersonal communication has become over the past decade.  While it is easy to wax on about the positive changes technology has had on how we communicate with family, friends, colleagues and clients/customers, I was also reminded of the negative implications technology can have on communication.

When I graduated from college, most of my business and personal communications took place either face-to-face or by phone – and by phone I mean, traditional, hard-wired Ma Bell phones.  Cellular phones were in their infancy and mainly used by titans of industry.  The same could be said about email; in fact, at my first job out of college, my entire firm shared ONE email account!

Spring forward to today where the options are almost limitless. Everyone has a cell phone, or two; and most people have multiple email addresses.  Miss your flight for a meeting or can’t make it home for the holidays, no problem, just use Skype.  And don’t get me started on texting and Facebook.

Needless to say, advances in technology have forever changed the way we communicate – some for the better, but increasingly, some to the detriment of our interpersonal interactions.  Within the confines of my own office, for example, many of my associates have fallen prey to the dark-side, surrendering to the implied safety of technology.  Instead of meeting face-to-face, one-on-one or in larger groups, many of my colleagues have increasingly chosen to isolate themselves behind technology.  While I don’t expect someone to stop by my office every time we speak, I would like to see more people get off of their butts and walk the 15-20 feet to my office to talk.

And it’s not just hurting business relationships!

While I’m all for advancing technology, I must admit that I am concerned about the potential negative implications of reduced face-time over the long term.

Turning back to my recent business dinner, I can say with great confidence that getting together face-to-face with our client helped us further cement an important relationship for our firm.  Granted, my team had hit it out of the park in terms of delivering tremendous results, but strong results only get you so far.

Ultimately, it’s the relationship that matters.

And I’m not convinced that relationships based upon phone calls and emails can stand the test of time.

Just ask recent Heisman Trophy candidate Manti Te’o about his fictitious girlfriend, with whom he only communicated with via text, email and phone.