Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.
— Mark Twain
One of my favorite Aretha Franklin songs is “Call Me” (1970), where she poignantly sings to the person she loves to stay connected while they are apart by calling her. And, in this new and viral world we’re in these days, that’s very good leadership advice, too.
Why? Because we’re now more isolated than perhaps we’ve ever been. Quarantines, event cancellations, closures, and economic chaos are forcing us into living and working in isolation. Even when in human contact, we maintain “social distancing.” I never knew six feet of separation could become so important….
Being tribal creatures, isolation means more to humans than mere physical separation. It is a highly threatening condition for us, where, in prehistoric times, it meant almost certain death. The threat of death may be much diminished today, but the psychological effect remains intensely powerful. We need to belong to our tribes, …family, friends, and colleagues.
Many of us won’t ask our leaders to contact us, but that doesn’t mean by any stretch that we don’t want them to do so. In fact, the very opposite is true. Now living in relative isolation, we need that contact more than ever, especially from the leadership.
We could just rely on electronic forms of exchanging information to become our primary method of contact – but that’s not going to help us communicate effectively. Information is not communication.
We need more than that — as individuals, teams, and organizations. Email and text just won’t suffice (many of those type messages are misunderstood, too).
Contrary to Mark Twain’s observation above, we’re all in need of conversation so we can communicate and thereby feel like we belong. Short of physical presence, the video or phone call is by far the most effective form of conversation.
So, it’s time for us to step up and call our family, friends, and team members to help them feel like they still belong to the tribe. Here’s a method for reaching out:
1. Establish a Call List. Schedule 10-15 minutes on your calendar for each one.
2. Develop a set of Power Questions for each call. My favorite is: “What’s on Your Mind?” Another is: “What’s Your Biggest Challenge Now?”
3. Listen to the answers you get. Take notes.
4. Schedule a follow-up call to circle back with some feedback. You don’t have to solve all of their problems, but show them you care about what they told you.
We really need you to “call me.” Enjoy the Journey!
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