Thanks to Carol Kinsey Gorman for her article, "What's So Great about Face-To-Face" (http://bit.ly/jm2UEd, membership required) in a recent edition of Communication World magazine.
Ms. Gorman reminds us of the importance of face-to-face communications with the growing popularity of email, texting and social media.
She references a recent study by the Harvard Business Review in which most leaders put a great deal of emphasis on the importance of doing business in person and link it directly to the bottom-line.
The study shows 87 percent of professionals think face-to-face meetings are essential for sealing a business deal, while 95 percent said they are key to successful, long-lasting business relationships.
There is also a great post on The CSR Blog entitled "Leadership Lessons from WD-40's CEO, Garry Ridge" (http://onforb.es/mlzLMh) in which the CEO espouses the power of "connection." Ridge notes that when there are gaps in connection, there are opportunities for distrust and fear.
In face-to-face meetings, our brains process a lot of nonverbal cues that we use as the basis for building trust and professional intimacy. Face-to-face interaction is information rich.
We interpret what people say to us only partially from the words they use. We get most of the message, and all of the emotional nuance behind the words, from vocal tone, pacing, facial expressions and body language.
We rely on immediate feedback, the instantaneous response of others, to help us gauge how well our ideas are being accepted. The moment we see an emotion expressed on someone's face, or read it in their gestures or postures, we subconsciously place ourselves in the other person's "mental shoes" and begin to sense that same emotion within ourselves.
In his book, On Becoming a Person, Carl Rogers wrote, "Real communication occurs when we listen with understanding -- to see the idea and attitude from the other person's point of view, to sense how it feels to them, to achieve their frame of reference in regard to the thing they are talking about."
Reaching that goal of real communication, of understanding and empathy, is why in-person interactions are crucial to professional success.
When a communication has any emotional charge, a face-to-face meeting is the most effective way to communicate. It's the only way others can see the alignment of your verbal and non-verbal messages and be convinced that your motives match your rhetoric.
Garry Ridge passionately speaks about the need to build a culture of trust, respect and candor with employees, channel partners and end users. He likens business relationships to those of "old friends" who have mutual respect, freedom to discuss challenges and opportunities, and people doing what they say they're going to do.
When is the last time you met face-to-face with your employees, your channel partners, your end users?