My stunned client had to take a deep breath and remind himself that some in his son’s generation genuinely don’t “get it.” Only then could he point out the obvious – that business relationships are like any other relationship. Face-to-face meetings are essential – not just for establishing new relationships but for nurturing existing ones.
While I applauded my client’s poise and wisdom, I couldn’t help gently pointing out that not long ago, he was guilty of the same perspective as his son. And like his son, he had his reasons. Hectic schedules and the practicality of documented comments had resulted in endless, unproductive email threads – even though his team all worked on the same floor. And email, for all its practical applications, is no replacement for face-to-face communications.
Personal relationship management – with teammates or clients or partners – is the cornerstone of corporate success. And like any other relationship, a corporate relationship requires “work.” Once my client could admit that reliance on impersonal communications was detrimental to his corporate culture, Ashlin Associates was able to recommend precise recommendations for communicating internally with teammates and externally with clients, including:
1. Make face-to-face communications a priority, followed by phone, and finally, email or IM.
2. Take initiative and be proactive with internal and external clients.
3. Follow through and keep your word.
4. Be responsive (within 24 hours).
5. Maintain a high degree of appropriateness and discretion when communicating.
6. Avoid creating cliques or subcultures, by being inclusive of all team members (in meetings, social events, etc.).
Technology, of course, is a marvelous thing; however, even in the most technologically-advanced workplace, there is no substitute for face-to-face communications. Indeed, I might argue that, the more technologically advanced we are, the greater the need to nurture and tend to the “personal” aspect of our relationships.