I’m a golf freak and someone who has great admiration for a player named Freddie Couples. Frederick Stephen Couples is an American professional golfer and former World No. 1 who competes on the PGA Tour. He has won numerous events, and is most famous for winning the 1992 Masters Tournament. He was cool before Tiger dominated the sport and like Tiger, he’s also had his fair share of good luck with the ladies. The latter under very different circumstances mind you. My man Freddie once said “I don’t answer the phone. I get the feeling whenever I do that there will be someone on the other end.”
I have a “feeling” about the phone too. My observation is that we have a phenomenon going on in the business world where too many people believe that email and social media are legitimate substitutes for…hang on to your hats….picking up the phone and having a live discussion with someone.
At home, my wife and I have a different view on why our home phone rings. She’s ecstatic to hear the phone ring. To find her panicking to find a ringing phone is not uncommon. She’s thinking before she even answers that we, or she’s being invited to some extravagant social event…or that she is simply going to have the opportunity to have a great chat with a friend. She’s giddy over either outcome. She’s a social animal. Me? I’m thinking like Fred, there may be someone on the other end!
But in the business world it’s an entirely different story. I’m a social animal. Short of meeting someone in person, there is no substitute for making an impact like picking up the phone and calling a client, a prospect, or anyone important to my business success. Not for nothing, there are many communication options out there. I like Twitter. I’ve found it to be entertaining and useful and I’ve met some terrific people there. Same with Facebook. I text like a mad man and I do it often. (Damn Blackberry’s.) However, when something important needs to get done, a live conversation is my only logical choice. I don’t leave important discussions to email or God forbid, a text message.
Here’s my concern: after ”a few” years of observing the use and abuse of text messaging and email (and now possibly social media), I think we have an entire generation where many opt for communications venues other than voice conversations thinking these other options are just as effective. My belief is that the proliferation of text and email is making it difficult for them to negotiate face to face. And, many have great anxiety when having to discuss difficult issues eye to eye with a business associate or client. I have great faith in the next generation and that great leadership will guide them to achieve more that the last generation. But in my view, the amount of communication in the “first person” needs dramatic improvement. Let me also state for the record that this phenomenon is not exclusive to any one generation. It seems to be a trend that transcends age and experience.
So, what can we do to change? Here’s a leadership idea to start improving real, live, person to person discussions in your business.
Implement a policy that I call “No Email Friday’s”. The only email allowed on Friday should be in response to a customer or supplier who requires a written answer that day. Otherwise, guess what? People have to…pick up the phone…. to resolve an issue with a co-worker, or to create a business opportunity with a client, etc. If an issue or opportunity needs attention in the office on Friday, someone may have to walk to the other person’s office and sit down face to face for a…… “talk”. Novel I know, but try it and watch the difference in your office communication and with your clients. It may be one of the great communication lessons that we can pass on to the next generation of business leaders.
Back to Freddie Couples. I would love to take a golf lesson from him. He still has one of the most fluid golf swings in the business and continues to have great success on the links. As for his thoughts on the use of phones, well, let’s just say that they don’t apply to the business world. As for me, if the phone rings on my desk I’m going to answer it. Call me, I promise to answer.
Bob Wright 770.559.3232