Wednesday, May 20, 2009 by Dave Blum

In an Associated Press article yesterday titled, “Search for Human Bonds, Google CEO Urges Grads“, Eric Schmidt (Google’s chairman and CEO) delivered a speech at the University of Pennsylvania’s commencement ceremony, with the following admonition:

“Turn off your computer.  You’re actually going to have to turn off your phone and discover all that is human around us…Nothing beats holding the hand of your grandchild as he walks his first steps.”

I found Schmidt’s comments extremely timely — especially as they relate to business.  Increasingly, business leaders have been moving to replace in-person meetings with virtual gatherings.  I think this is a mistake.  Although virtual meetings potentially save money on participant travel costs, I believe they cost organizations much more in the long term.  Building effective, productive teams is more than simply exchanging information — it’s about developing and nurturing relationships — and relationships require trust, as outlined below:

TRUST:

T–Be Transparent –show your feelings
R–Be Responsive–give timely, appropriate feedback
U–Use Caring–demonstrate empathy
S–Be Sincere–don’t lie and don’t gossip
T–Be Trustworthy–do what you say you’re going to do

In a virtual meeting (even a video conference), participants can’t see each others’ body language, gestures and facial expressions. Hence it’s impossible to really show your feelings to each other. Moreover, feedback cannot be expressed in a way that truly demonstrates your caring, your empathy.  Body language conveys feeling far better than technology every can.

So I agree with Schmidt.  When it comes to interaction, put down the technology– your computers, your I-phones, your blue tooth headsets.  Get together with people in real time and develop relationships the way humans are wired to do: in person!

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