If there’s one thing we can all agree on it’s this: We’ve never been ‘busier’. Every day just seems to be filled with an ever-increasing list of priorities, whether it’s our personal or professional lives.
This seeming lack of time across our lives has had a bigger impact in my opinion than many of us realise. I think we’re losing sight of the ‘people’ aspect of what we do, particularly in our working lives.
The value of people
So what do I mean by ‘people’ things? When you bring it back down to base level, everything in life is about people. It’s our ability to focus on the people around us, both internal and external to our business, which makes the difference in so many ways. In an age where we’ve outsourced much of our communication to tools on social media its something that I think we’ve forgotten to add into our list of priorities.
It’s the culture aspect that makes working relationships so different. Combining people from all walks of life to band together behind a common goal is always an interesting challenge. The key to it all is ensuring that the simple act of working, those day-to-day things we do, doesn’t get in the way of actually communicating with our colleagues and customers.
It’s easy to forget
Whether its compliance, paper work, or just the general crush to do more with less that seems to have pervaded business these days, it can distract us from truly engaging with those around us both internally and externally.
Business used to be built solely around customers and more importantly customer service. In my view that’s something that many businesses have lost along the way. In todays world it’s often easy to fire off an email rather than speaking to someone face to face or even via the phone. That’s the core of the problem: We’ve changed our focus to ticking a box. By simply firing off an email have you really resolved a problem or just added to it? That focus of ‘doing more and interacting less’ often doesn’t solve a problem it exacerbates it.
Our customers still want that personal interaction. They want to form those business relationships that elevate you above a website and an email address.
It’s not just externally either. Having the time to engage your colleagues is crucial to a successful business. Being present when talking with them, rather than being distracted by an email or focused on another task, is crucial to building trust and a sense of being part of a team.
Is it time to refocus?
Focusing back on people is choice that we all have the ability to make. It might be as simple as refocusing on how we communicate; the key point is that it can have some big knock on affects in our business.
The first one is margin squeeze. One of the reasons that businesses suffer margin squeeze is because there is a lack of connection with their customer. It’s very easy for your customers to lose that connection with you if you become the faceless company, constantly hiding behind an email or social media to communicate. The businesses I see doing well are those that do the people elements well: They engage their customers on multiple levels but most importantly they still focus on strong face to face communication. With the level of competition we all face these days, chances are if you’re not doing it a competitor will be.
The second impact is finding the right people. We all know that hiring the right talent is hard and is going to remain that way. My advice is to look for people with strong people skills, those potential team members that will not only engage well with your customer’s but also their workmates. If there’s a good fit with your culture, then the chances of that hire fitting in with the business and being active member of the team are significantly higher.
The biggest tip I can give you is that you need to ensure that there’s something of business value in the way you communicate. Firstly, you need to be present i.e. not distracted or ignoring the person when communicating with them. This just comes across as fake immediately. Secondly, doing the people stuff doesn’t mean taking your customers to dinner or the football. It’s more about being consistent and honest in the way you communicate. Remember that it’s a business discussion so the value can’t just be that you all get along. There must be something that ties it back to the strength of the business relationship.
I’m not saying you should stop using technology…
I’m certainly not telling you to completely throw away your email login. The key is finding a balance between digital and human communication. So next time you’re about to flick an email to someone think about this: Can I achieve a better outcome if I talk face to face or via the phone? If the answer is yes, it’s worth investing the time.