I hope everyone is working hard to close out a good 2012 and readying themselves to do even better both personally and professionally in 2013. That was the goal of the trip to Orlando that I just went on. Normally I spend four days with other business owners trying to work through each of our past quarter’s issues and what we want to accomplish in the next quarter between checking email, voice messages and taking phone calls from back at the office. We try to have a limited laptop/tablet policy as to not get distracted from being a Go-Giver so cell phones are strategically placed on the tables/laps to try and keep up. I spend a lot of time between sessions or while walking trying to keep up back home.
I say all of this to setup the real story. On the first night in town while heading back to my room from dinner (A rare moment my cell phone was in my pocket and not my hand) I was pick-pocketed and lost my cell phone. I didn’t realize it until I was back in the room and the only action I could take was to issue a remote wipe command (Thank goodness for mobile device management) and call Verizon to have the service turned off. The next day the fun began trying to get a replacement shipped down to me. For the next two days I was without a cell phone. It was probably the longest I have been without a cell phone on me since they were made small enough to not be called bag phones. For those two days I actually had to schedule when and where to meet people ahead of time or use the phone in the hotel room (When was the last time you did that?). When I was in meetings or sitting with people I had to actually spend the entire time engaged in the activity with others and not checking my email, text or voicemail every three minutes.
These couple of days have been some of the best interactions I have ever had with people face to face. I have truly listened to what people have had to say, tried to put my entire brain to work on solving issues and got to know casual friends as true deep friends. I now realize that I have been missing out not only here at these meetings each quarter, but at home and the office when it comes to engaging people a lot of the time. I have allowed those things not directly engaged with me to distract me from being present for those that are. I am sure I have missed opportunities to help and learn that I may not get again. Now I can tell you that I probably twitched a lot during those two days because I wanted to be checking my phone, and when others broke from our interaction to check theirs I was upset and felt like I might not be important to that person at that moment.
So I have to ask are we becoming more connected because we can text or Facebook or email each other or are we learning to avoid the art of conversation and direct connection? I think we all know a time we chose to send a message instead of a direct interaction to avoid having to deal with an issue or subject in real time. Don’t get me wrong, there are times that a message sent via email allows others to digest something and respond in their own time but there are many others that we would be much better understood and spend less time if we just interacted with someone directly the first time. Now, I do have a three email rule (If we send more than three emails back and forth during a day on a subject I am going to come see you or call you) but have to question even that now.
I love meeting people and learning about and from them. Now I have an even better appreciation for spending time together face to face without the distraction of technology. I think that people I wasn’t giving my full attention to previously got more from me during these two days than ever before. I am not exactly sure how far I am willing to take things from this epiphany but maybe I need to stop having to have my phone and tablet in every meeting or at least truly limit them to the needed use during the meeting. Maybe the next vacation I take should truly be a vacation and not take them with me at all (Don’t tell my wife I said that).
When was the last time you spent a prolonged period forced to only directly interact with people? Did you feel more empowered by it? Why don’t you give me a call and we can setup a time to meet face to face and talk about it.