When it comes to communication, instant isn't always better.
Humans are tribal animals, drawing comfort, pride, and motivation from the social group around them. Since time immemorial, tribes have given people a sense of meaning and identity in a chaotic world. With religious affiliation and social clubs on the wane, the workplace may be one of the last bastions where humans join forces toward a common purpose. The fact that a business team is often pitted against a competitor further underscores the tribal nature of work.
A company in startup mode is like a tribe, defined by its team and that team’s shared set of beliefs and values—culture, in other words. Since a strong company culture separates great companies from mediocre ones, it’s important to get it right. And getting it right goes far beyond perks like free lunches and on-site dry-cleaning. Rather, culture ultimately comes down to people and how they relate. It’s built around trust, understanding, and the sense of a shared mission.
This is where communication comes in. With email, cell phones, voicemail, and texting, we now have an array of instant communication channels available to us. Few would argue that these aren’t a boon to getting things done. In fact, these ubiquitous tools have greatly accelerated the pace of business, making it possible to work and transact any time and from any place.
While these communications may be instant, however, don’t confuse that with effective. If success were simply about completing lists of tasks, these tools would be sufficient. When it comes to company culture, however, they miss the mark entirely. This is because business is about far more than getting things done. It’s about building relationships, trust, and professional intimacy.
The most effective communication is face-to-face. We interpret what people say to us only partially from the actual words they use. Most of the message, and the entire nuance, come from tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. Real communication employs understanding and empathy, which is why in-person interactions are crucial to professional success. When your verbal and non-verbal messages align, trust is created and enhanced. People open up. They take more risks. They commit, become more accountable. This is the staff you want.
When we can see the person we’re speaking with, we’re able to register all kinds of non-verbal cues. We can tell right away if we’re being understood, giving us the opportunity to clarify our message. In addition, face-to-face conversations ask more of us. They demand our full presence. When you’re solving problems, collaborating, or brainstorming, you want your team present—and firing on all cylinders.
We are wired to belong, to be part of a tribe. Smart companies understand this and do all they can to create a culture of trust, respect, and transparency that inspires employees to deliver their best. Give your team what they need to connect.