Isolation can be nice. Sometimes it’s great to just get away from the world, put your feet up and throw your cares out the window. Then again it’s hard to find nooks and crannies in this modern world that aren’t infested with ways to communicate. But there is a flip side to all of this. The more we rely on this same technology to feel connected, the more we can in fact become isolated, even if we are surrounded by the teaming masses.
One of the keys to leadership is engagement. Engagement is the act, if not the art, of connecting in a number of different ways with those who surround you at work and at home. It’s an implicit, if not explicit, psychological bond in which each party feels the capacity to be open, to be candid, and to be involved. When you are properly engaging with anyone, both parties really feel free to share without worrying about consequences. This doesn’t mean you should run out of your office and start telling people you barely know that they smell bad (that will lead to the almost instant isolation of unemployment), instead it means that you need to create bonds with those around you to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to getting things done.
You might be saying to yourself, “Self, I email and message everyone that I lead in my office two or three times a day, I really stay connected.” Annoying the living daylights out of your employees is not a form of engagement or at least not a form that will get you anywhere. Instead, you need to get off a certain unnamed body part and move from behind your desk/work station/park bench.
What you really need is plenty of old fashion face-to-face communication. Modern technology is all about disseminating information quickly. It’s about telling people what you think in the blink of an eye. Believe it or not, it has the power to make us MORE isolated–not less. The keys to honest engagement are listening, asking questions, and giving feedback. Despite what you might have read, you just can’t do that with an email. Heck even a good old fashion telephone call is better.
Isolation might be something we all need now and again, but in order to avoid having it become a permanent condition, we need to avoid the false feeling of engagement that modern communication has lulled us into.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m writing this blog on a laptop, sending it in via email and waiting by the smartphone for an IM telling me it’s been published, but I’m not fooling myself by thinking any of that is even remotely related to engaging those I work with.
Picture Credit: Leo Reynolds