The Lost Art of Connection

John Dir
 


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It is the age of computers and the internet, with business moving forward and changing at a lightening pace. Business leaders are demanding more from employees, reducing benefits, outsourcing jobs, pressing performance limits, and scrambling to please shareholders. The present holds promise for an age of communication unlike any that has been experienced in history, yet more than ever, people are disconnecting from each other. In the current business environment, money means more than quality, and many people spend more time looking over their shoulder to see if they will be the next one on the chopping block, than they do focusing on improving anything. The perception of job security has moved from an image of satisfaction, loyalty, and accomplishment to one of leverage, manipulation, and withholding.

The concept of a valued customer, or a valued employee is more closely tied to bottom line dollars and cents than it is to appreciation. People are becoming more reluctant to look each other in the eye for fear of seeing something warm and engaging to corrupt the sense of self protectionism and personal detachment. With increasing frequency, I have actually heard people say they are not interested in establishing any new friendships because they just do not have any spare time. As corporations maneuver to absorb each other, and upper level management climbs higher into secluded ivory towers, the doors close between reality and fantasy. Nobody on any level expects to be around for long, so why not create a self serving plan that derives the greatest benefit for the individual? When an opportunity for something more, if not better, comes along, it is time to move on. Few people feel they will be greatly missed because nobody cared much about them in the first place. Businesses have always found ways to move around problems, but what about people? The answer is too often, “Oh well, on to the next!. ”

In many businesses around the country, policies still pay lip service to the idea that people are the most valued resource, whether they are customers or employees. Yet, when these companies are tested, money and equipment are demonstrated to be the winners as most valued assets. Customers are relegated to automated servicing systems, and employees are delegated responsibilities via a “use them then lose them, ” priority system. For larger corporations, extended policies of releasing employees at the point when rewards for service are expected, and hiring newcomers to replace them is beginning to take its toll in trust. The secret to good customer relations, employee retention, and long term growth for a company is not as big a mystery as portrayed.

True success can be measured in trust, and trust is gained through connection between people, and connection results in investment of money. When trust is replaced by empty promises, it is difficult to rebuild. In recent big business failures, executive management has exhibited the disturbing tendency to project ever increasing profits, set perpetually increasing sales goals, and take everyone by surprise when these expectations suddenly fall far short of the stated objectives. True business is a cycle of ups and downs, not a function of perpetual projection for fantasy gains. For leadership that cannot predict a possible down turn for fear of disappointing shareholders, the only way is out, not up. When executives are blindsided by the truth, this demonstrates how far out of touch they have become. Business can fail suddenly from little more than a complete lack of connection from within.

Exceptional and memorable business leaders in the past became great by finding innovative ways to keep in touch with their customers and their employees. Establishing strong ties within an organization requires visibility and interaction between people who trust each other enough to work together for a common goal. Cramming together a pack of self seeking individuals who cannot focus beyond their own interests does not build a business; it creates confusion. You will never win over an employee very long by trying to bribe them into compliance, nor will you succeed by suddenly deciding their efforts are now worth half what you previously offered for the same work. You can refund a customer’s money on their purchase to quiet their complaints, but you will still have an enemy to spread negative perceptions about your company to anyone who will listen.

As a customer in a retail store, you would not expect the checkout clerk to take the money for your purchase then tell you, “Thanks, now out of the way so I can get this guy’s cash. ” If this is true, why would you expect an employee to appreciate being told in effect, “Thanks, now out of the way so we can get somebody cheaper to do your job. By the way, would you mind training them before you go, just so it will be easier for us?”

In the mad scramble to scratch profit from increasingly competitive markets, it is becoming easier to focus on cut throat tactics than to consider the impact decisions have on people’s lives. Failure to connect strongly and honestly with other people will erode the foundation of a business faster than any competition. If you succeed in the short term by ruining or absorbing competitors, you may temporarily gain the brass ring, but ultimately find yourself holding out your hand for the money, with no one in line to provide it. Choose something you can do, find the people you need to help get it done, and do it well.

Director of Software Concepts BHO Technologists - LittleTek Center . Please provide a rating for the article to help us determine future content choices.

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