From Arlene: It's A Digital World. Or Is It?

From Arlene: It's A Digital World. Or Is It?

From Arlene | Posted by - September 18, 2013 at 1:00 am

I recently put my desk out with my team so we could collaborate on the fly as we work together on the new platform for YouInc, set to launch this fall. There are many moving parts to creating a new technology practice and it has been quite the experience for me working on building a site that I hope will serve entrepreneurs in a unique and meaningful way.

Up until the point I moved my desk, I was relying on scheduled meetings and emails to keep me informed and updated. My team was giving me what I needed when I needed it but I wasn’t giving them what they needed – face time. Since I put my desk in the middle of our space, I’ve re-learned a valuable lesson. One that, as a communicator, I have known all along is good practice but, as sometimes happens, let slip.

It’s so easy to rely on texts and emails. So easy, in fact, that sometimes we view a phone call or a personal inquiry to be an unwanted distraction or even a waste of time. I don’t know about you but personally I much prefer speaking face-to-face with someone who is asking me to run a marathon with them; and, as an entrepreneur, that’s what you are asking your team to do with you each and every day.

You are building a business, not a library. Those thousands of emails and texts will not be what you proudly hold up at the end of the journey. The relationships you build with your team will be what matters most and what drives your business forward. And those relationships are built one at a time, connecting person to person.

As an entrepreneur being close to your team is critical. They need to hear from you, not through emails and distant lofty missives, but through contact and seeing you around the office. Walking the halls is something all business owners can do more often – whether your office has halls (maybe it’s just one room!) or operates across multiple floors, the art of personally connecting makes your vision much more meaningful to your employees.

There is a saying that email is good for content not intent. Isn’t that the truth? We all have sent a note in a hurry only to find out that the receiver is perplexed, perturbed or really pissed off at what we unintentionally “implied” or “said” without us even knowing we had said it.

Too many exclamation points, not enough words or explanation – all of these lead to miscommunication and sometimes bad blood between co-workers.

Get out there. Put yourself in front of people, not behind a computer. Make sure you check-in with your team on the phone, not always on email. A personal touch can make all the difference in a digital world.

Tags: arlene dickinson, communication, confidence, digital, relations, teachers, blog

Mark Burdon
August 13, 2013 at 12:22 am


I get where you are coming from with this article, however not everyone is just moving a desk from office A to office B to improve communications. There are many companies that have employees distributed across the country, around the world. e-mails are starting to be replaced by instant messaging as people realize that e-mails are too slow or inefficient. There's also video/Web conferencing that can empower you to use the efficiency of e-mail with the warm and fuzzy of over the phone communications. 

When I worked for TELUS I had a great experience of being in a telepresence meeting which made a meeting with people in Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa feel like it was around a single, large table with the interactivity that you describe. That technology is pretty expensive however if people are scattered around the country or in home offices digital solutions like Google Hangouts, Microsoft Lync/Skype and GoToMeeting is the next best thing to dragging your desk out into the office. 

Digital's not so bad. Nice to get out amongst the warm bodies though you're right.:)

Camille Boivin
August 14, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Excellent advice. I was recently speaking with a manager at a large corporation who redesigned her team's office, moving her own desk into their space. She was saying how communication within the team has hugely improved since the change. People were initially reluctant to let go of their cubicles, but the open concept workspace has brought them together as a team.

Melody McKinnon
August 15, 2013 at 3:52 pm

I agree with face-to-face collaboration, but that can be done virtually too when necessary.  Remote working / telecommuting is where today's workforce is heading.  We have to find creative ways to collaborate, such as utilizing 'the cloud', video conferencing, Skype, etc.  Like most core business concepts, this one still applies to the digital world but in a new way.

Personally, I communicate better in writing and I like having a record for some types of conversations.  I agree that isn't the case for the majority though.

Dragan Cvijan
August 15, 2013 at 10:04 pm

With an idea as project walking koridors taken (frenchized) and ocupied by lobist starting with senate and congress to you name it, I found it waste of efort.

Terri Patterson
August 22, 2013 at 9:57 pm

I still enjoy speaking on the phone.  It's nice to also hear the tone, can be a great pick me up with the right person on the other end :)


Heather West
August 23, 2013 at 1:17 pm

I absolutely believe this is true. In one of my former management positions, I was assigned an office, but elected to work in a cubicle alongside my team. We were a new team brought together through amalgamation. Working in close proximity gave us a chance to get to know each other and also allowed us to collaborate more frequently. 

August 23, 2013 at 8:28 pm
It's funny that you wrote this as we were just talking the other day about how I have approx 23 employees I have never met in person but through phone calls and talking text we have built amazing relationships. I do have to create a meeting after this article. Thank you for your amazing topics Arlene they always seem to pop up right when I need the advice ; )
Kelly Hygaard
September 30, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Great Blog Arlene!

The action of interacting face to face with employees and connections makes a statement that you care about what you are doing as well as acknowledge and appreciate the people helping you attain your goals. Not only that it's an ACTION. Our society has become one of constant planning and no ACTION. Thanks for sharing!

Judy Toupin
October 2, 2013 at 6:49 pm
you are so right, Arlene ... it's too easy to get lost in the technology ... love that they are wonderful tools for us to use, but we can't lose that personal, one on one, face to face link!
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