Brokerage Ops the October 2014 issue

We Have Completely Lost Touch

In a meeting, you are everything that doesn’t come across in texts, tweets and emails.
By Ken Crerar Posted on September 30, 2014

I anticipated awkward moments of silence and posturing for position, but we were pleasantly surprised to encounter just the opposite. They were engaged and laughing, and so were we…

Until dinner ended and they buried themselves back in their handhelds.

Human interaction is what we all yearn for, but we are living in a culture of disjointed personal interaction. Adults are just as guilty as kids. 

Our daily grind is so fast-paced and hectic that we oftentimes neglect face-to-face communication with one another. Sure, smartphones and iPads make business easier when you’re working with someone a world away, but we’re too quick to dismiss the importance of a handshake or a meeting over coffee. It’s as if we’ve completely lost touch. Strike that—we have completely lost touch.

Some of us would do anything to avoid personal interaction. We want immediate decisions and solutions; we don’t have time for the hows or the whys. You may think that’s good and efficient business, but I worry that we are teaching an entire generation that it’s OK to live virtually. When I put my two boys to sleep at night, I look at them and wonder how they will fare on job interviews and deal with colleagues or clients. They are digital natives—give them a device and watch their brilliance shine through; introduce them to a human being and they look for the nearest rock to hide under. It worries me.

Business is a relationship science. And a large part of being successful is having people skills. It’s what our industry was built on and what has made our annual Insurance Leadership Forum such an important place to be for 101 years.

The executives who participate in this meeting collectively lead companies that employ millions of people, generate trillions in annual revenues, and have a foot in the door with every major global industry that fuels our economy. Talk about the power of convening.

Think about how much you can accomplish by sitting across a table from one of these business partners. Whether you shake on a deal or simply walk away with a napkin scribbled full of ideas, there’s an intangible value to building and maintaining personal relationships (not to mention a prime opportunity to expand your book of business). You’re more thoughtful, more civil, more focused and perhaps, more strategic. You’re everything that doesn’t come across in texts, tweets and emails.

I read an excerpt from The New York Times a few months ago in regards to a conference program they’ve created: “People really want to be able to encounter real people in real time and talk to them about things of consequence that matter to them. That’s the business we’re in.” Sound familiar? 

In an odd way, the uber-digital world we live in has raised the value of face-to-face conversation, whether we can see it on a spreadsheet or not. Try to quantify building your professional network. Try to calculate the ROI when a conversation with your peers and colleagues helps pave the way for a new product that benefits our industry. Try to put a number on the relationships you build based off trust and integrity.

The uber-digital world we live in has raised the value of face-to-face conversation, whether we can see it on a spreadsheet or not.

Try it at ILF.

Here’s my challenge to you: The next time you sit down at the dinner table, with kids or colleagues or competitors, shut off your phone and see what happens. You won’t be disappointed. 
 

Ken Crerar President & CEO, The Council Read More

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