Here is a problem – a big problem – in the high-tech, digital world we all function in. E-mail, and other forms of digital communication, have trumped conversation.
And that is a mistake.
So, recently, I ran across this phrase, which is attributed to Peter Block. (I heard it from Mark Israelson, who works for the city of Plano, TX). Here is the phrase:
“Connection before content.”
Notice the wording: not “connection instead of content,” but “connection before content.” It is okay to send your message forth in an e-mail blast. It is okay to make a request, deliver a message, ask a question through e-mail. But it is not okay to think that that is as effective as a good old-fashioned “conversation.”
John Wooden, in Wooden on Leadership, wrote: “Don’t hastily replace the old fashioned with the new fangled.” We do live an era of constant, perpetual, and ever-so-shorter-lived change. But maybe there are a few practices that should not be jettisoned in this hyper-connected world. And one of those is actual face-to-face conversation.
Connection before content. This is what makes content more readily received, and then acted on.
Quite some time ago, I saw the movie Temple Grandin, and wrote this blog post. It still pops up on our “most-viewed” list: Ten Lessons about Business and Personal Success from Temple Grandin (the person, and the movie). Temple Grandin is not capable (literally, with her autism, not capable) of the kind of leisurely “get to know one another” conversations that help precede content delivery. But she learned to do at least the minimum amount of connecting. Here’s the paragraph about this from my earlier blog post:
Success requires “suck-up” skills. (phrase borrowed from Carville and Begala). Because of her autism, Temple Grandin did not understand the value of sucking up, and it did not come naturally to her. Apparently (this is assumed more than stated or demonstrated in the movie), her mother and aunt had drilled into her the value of simple, polite manners. (“My name is Temple Grandin. Pleased to meet you.” And then, right away, she would launch into her real question or message). And though she sounded impersonal in her use of such everyday politeness, she made herself do it. What a testament to the need to develop what we now call networking skills.
So, the next time you get ready to send that e-mail, ask yourself, “have I connected with this person?” before you hit the send button.
Connection before content.
Seth Godin’s new book, Linchpin, is making waves. He launched it with his own blogger assisted 2.0 media blitz (our own blogging team member Bob Morris was part of that – read this post, and this post), and he used the large megaphone of The Huffington Post with his own post, Is Control the Answer?, to provide a key concept of the book. It has to do with control – and control is simply not going to work in a world focused on ideas. Here’s part of what he wrote:
If you run a big factory, of course you need control. Control over when your workers come in, what they do, what they make, what happens to your inventory, where it’s sold, how it’s priced, everything. More control equals more profits, at least if the market is stable.
But if your business deals in ideas, control will stifle them.
Worse still, a rapidly changing competitive environment means that control is a losing strategy. Record companies tried to control technology and they lost. AT&T thought they could control how people used a telephone and they lost as well.
Is there any doubt that the world is going to go faster, not slower?
Now, power comes from connection and leadership and respect. The way you treat people (all of them, even those without apparent authority) comes back to you again and again, which means that our new leaders embrace dignity and respect instead of the traditional trappings of top down organizations.
Seth Godin has a great ability to take a key concept that is a perfect reflection of the era, and say – hey, pay attention to this. He grasped that the way people were connecting was creating Tribes. And now he grasps that that control is out, linchpins are in. I think he is right…
Think about this (from Godin):
Are you betting on tomorrow being more or less interesting than yesterday?