Tied to Technology: Are finance teams losing the ability to interact on a personal level?

How many times did you glance at your phone in your last meeting? Once? Five times? Ten times?

I know what you’re going to say… it’s only to check for urgent incoming emails. If you’re honest, it’s also a compulsion, cultured by the need for speedy reactions and the constant pressure on time. In the world of today, we’re “on” 24/7, and that means we’re tied to our emails, phones, messages – in short, we’re tied to technology. But how is that affecting our interactions with people?
Being tied to technology results in a number of nuances in behaviour that can, if left unchecked, have a detrimental effect on the perception of you as a “leader” and the relationships you have with the people around you. Essentially, being tied to technology mean that you are less “present” in your interactions with people, especially if you always have one eye on your phone…

Are you present?
Think about the last time you were out for dinner with your partner, or a group of friends. I bet you checked your phone, not incessantly, but consistently through the evening, as did the company you were with. It’s becoming an irritating habit we’ve all developed, one of those habits that when someone else does it, you tut tut, but if it’s OK for you to do it yourself, when it’s needed, which it invariably is.
In that situation, as we all know, it can cause tension, as it feels like the other person, or people, are preoccupied with something other than the social occasion. It feels like they are not present, and this can create feelings of resentment.

Let’s put this into a work context. You’re having a 1-2-1 with your direct manager, and you have a number of things you’d like to discuss, however they keep glancing across at their laptop. They stop to apologise, and explain they’re just waiting for the result of an important tender to come through. How does that make you feel? Probably unimportant, slightly rejected, and most likely as if you’re wasting their time?

So, let’s flip it, and suddenly you might understand how your direct reports might feel. You may not do this in a 1-2-1, but team meetings, strategy sessions and catch-ups all can be equally affected, even if you’re only one of a group. Let’s face it, people value feeling valued, so don’t inhibit getting the best out of your team for the sake of “being present.”

It’s easier on email
We all know email is one of the biggest time wasters of office life, but what if it was also affecting your relationships with people? Sure, it’s easier to order thoughts or construct arguments over email, as you can shape your insights through the act of writing, but will it have the same result as meeting that person face-to-face? Especially in cases where you’re trying to build relationships, perhaps with a supplier, customer or bank manager, face-time is the best way to show them you value their time, and that what you are discussing is important to you. You can build a relationship over email, but it will take you a long time.

It’s more powerful this way
We’ve all experienced death by PowerPoint. Preparing a snazzy presentation, full of facts and spinning graphs might wow, but will it get your point across? You can’t interchange an ability to influence and engage your audience through articulating your arguments clearly and with passion, with a load of data, however impressively presented it is. Influencing and engaging stakeholders is done through forging authentic connections, building rapport and being persuasive – all of which can only be done through verbal interaction and face-time. Technology is there to support that.

In conclusion…..
Common to most finance professionals, developing advanced communication skills is a strategic development priority, if you want to achieve significant career progression. However, as an administrative function, it’s also one of the easiest environments to fall back on technology. Of course, technology has its place, but it’s absolutely essential to remember that ensuring you interact fully with the people around you, by being present, focused and committed, giving others their time, and ensuring that they feel valued.

Next time you’re in a meeting, leave the phone on the desk. I’m sure that email can wait 20 minutes.

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