Keep the Conversation Going

Keep the Conversation Going
By Jack Hall: Chamber Chairman of the Board – Director of External Affairs, Comcast

I have welcomed technology every step of the way throughout my life. Accepting its challenges while allowing it to broaden my experiences.

As a youth, we were told about these new things called computers and how they put a man on the moon. Yet, these machines could not successfully complete election night tallies. 

Like a true geek, I embraced with joy the first mini-computer system I managed in the early 80’s. I did this even as the business owner asked, “For this much money, this thing is going to make you better at what you do?” I assured him it was going to make us all better at what we do. The diversified farmer I worked for at the time did not believe me. He was right. It helped the accounting side but not the production side.

Technology was not quite there for my answer to ring true, but it has been for a while now and is only getting more important. It started with internet access through a dial up modem but became a true game changer with broadband and wireless connectivity. The power of instant access to large amounts of data at speeds that are getting faster everyday has changed how we live. How we converse. How we do business.

Yet for all the benefits we have reaped from this technology, are we building and maintaining our relationships? Is our network real or virtual? Do we need one or the other network? Or perhaps a hybrid network? What skill sets do we need to successfully communicate for our businesses and lives to keep moving forward? This is changing at a pace faster than we all can perceive. 

Today’s technology aims to allow us to communicate at a certain level of efficiency, but does it accomplish that endeavor? I am starting to see a real challenge facing the business world as a newer generation transitions into the workforce. It is the inability of some new workers to carry on a conversation or maintain eye contact for over 20 seconds and their need to check their mobile devices constantly. They have more potential than many of us combined but have not tapped in to it yet.

As much as technology allows you to communicate, it is still up to the individual to close the deal. It is your ability to negotiate while sitting across from someone in a room, the ability to sway a discussion, or as I like say “move pieces.” It is the ability to brainstorm without searching Google. Wait, I take that one back. I want my search engine.

Society and technology are creating an attention deficit disorder that has become acceptable across the business spectrum. Now, don’t call me old or cranky. I may have those days, but this is about one-on-one business communication. Interpersonal skills that are the mainstay for developing and maintaining your communication network are falling to the side. Checking Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn is not multi-tasking and neither is answering your email in a meeting. Yes, I have done all of the above and I am not proud of it. 

Technology has allowed for me to be flexible and involved in the community we serve. Every day I have conference calls, video chats and hundreds of emails to process. However, the best part of the days and nights that I work are the face-to-face meetings, carrying on a healthy discussion, being a good listener and getting verbal participation from all sides.

In developing our workforce, its future leaders, our community leaders, I encourage us all to help expand those conversational skill sets needed in the workplace. It’s a responsibility shared by us all.

Let us keep the conversation going.

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