Today is the last day of 2020. It has completely changed the meaning of 20-20 hindsight. In fact, I hope it continues to fade in the rearview mirror.
Almost all of our Christmas cards described the rough year that was 2020. It was a joy to hear the comments about how thankful and grateful people were through all of the difficulties.
The things I’m thankful for include my family (all healthy and living around the world), the Lord and his personal love and forgiveness, and all the things that make life bearable or easier. We are warm, have a roof over our head, and people beyond family around us that love and care for us as well.
The thing that discourages me the most from this year is the loss of human contact. In public, we have masks between us, are able to elbow bump at the best, and have nowhere to meet. I used to arrange to meet people for coffee on a regular basis. And so we rely on video conference. It’s just not the same.
All of my grandchildren do well with their video schooling. But what they talk about the most is not being able to be with their friends. They need human contact. I went to a small rural school system where most of my classmates were together all the way through graduation. We still get together annually and I truly do love these people. We didn’t know each other in the work world where you’re measured on your productivity. We knew each other because we were together. We shared our life dreams together. We share the difficulties with each other. We encouraged each other. We were human beings together.
What We Used to Know as Teams
Highly effective teams got to know each other as humans. We shared together. We journeyed together. We accomplished outstanding things together. If you saw someone on the team who seemed to be struggling, it was easy to take them aside, shake their hand or put a hand on their shoulder and ask, “Are you OK?” Human touch! None of that is possible in a video conference.
Today I hear leaders talk about how productive teams are because there is no time for this kind of thing during a video call. It requires that you get to the topic at hand, receive updates if necessary, set the next goals, and assign the people who will be responsible. The productivity is great! But “team-building” is not. Productivity may remain high for a period of time, but a highly-effective team needing to tackle very complex or innovative solutions will never be built.
There are no technical solutions to solve this problem. However, a team I’ve been working with has formed an app called GPS4Leaders to help overcome some of these issues. While we’ll never solve the lack of face-to-face issues or overcome the need for human touch, we have focused on where the team is starting to breakdown and how to overcome that issue. The system offers guidance in terms of where-to-look for helpful hints and offers what’s called a “Coach in a Box” to help guide the users in solving the problem they face. But, there’s still nothing like a true human connection to build trust and overcome issues.
Best Solution for the Moment
While I’ll stand by my statement above that there is no technical solution to this problem, there are some things that I believe could help.
Let’s start with understanding the purpose of the various forms of communication we have available today.
Email is the oldest and possibly the most used communication software. However, email was intended to pass on information from one person to another or even several people at once. It was not intended to provide psychological understanding or even humor. It is a fact-based tool.
Text messaging has likely taken over as the most used communication software. I have to convince my grandchildren that it is not universally used and it is probably worse at providing understanding or humor… hence emojis.
I believe that social media was originally intended to share thoughts with lots of people but it seems to me that for the most part, it has allowed people to vent and make outrageous statements that they would never consider making when they are face-to-face with someone.
None of these technical solutions is good at building trust and understand. So what is a person supposed to do in this socially distanced world?
Pick up the Phone!
While a phone is still a technical solution that’s not quite as good as being face-to-face, it does allow for listening. Listening for emotional clues. Listening for understanding. Listening to show respect for the other person.
This is where GPS4Leaders tries to help. Once issues are identified in the data, GPS4Leaders will encourage the team to talk through their beliefs about the issue or have one-on-one conversations for understanding, respect, and trust.