by Steve Adubato, PhD
Like millions of professionals, I have a BlackBerry. I rely on it and, some might argue, I am addicted to it. But whether it is an iPhone, BlackBerry or other smartphone device, clearly the way we have come to communicate is largely dominated by technology.
So when the problems with BlackBerry started recently, it raised a whole range of confounding communication issues. Most Americans were not paying that much attention to the BlackBerry snafu until it hit closer to home. Just this past Wednesday, I was leading a communication and leadership seminar when it became clear that e-mails were not coming through on BlackBerry. So, while the iPhone folks were oblivious—and just a bit smug—about the situation, those of us using BlackBerry were panicking. Dozens of people in the seminar, which ironically was focusing on the need to be more “present” in our every day business communication, kept checking their devices. Clearly, many business professionals were confused and nervous about what communication and information they might be missing and how it would be perceived that they were not responding as quickly as they would in normal circumstances.
But here’s the deal. Technology breaks down. It happens all the time and when it does, there is virtually nothing you can do about it. It is beyond your control. But what IS in your control is how you deal with it. With this in mind, consider some tips and tools that will help you become more present and, in turn, more effective when interacting with colleagues, clients and other key business stakeholders.
--I know it is easier said than done, but if your smartphone isn’t working, instead of checking it every two minutes, decide to be PRESENT wherever you are. If it is a meeting, a seminar, a conference call…BE THERE. Listen. Participate. Get involved and engaged. Every second you spend obsessing over your BlackBerry is a second you are communicating to those around you that your interaction with them is not important.
--Consider other communication options. Why not go old school and pick up the phone. Call someone in your office you work closely with and ask them to check your e-mail on your computer and identify any urgent requests for information or anything that is deadline sensitive. Let’s face it; the vast majority of e-mails most of us get in business are not really relevant. In fact, they are time wasters. The key is to identify the difference between what you need to respond to immediately, what can wait until tomorrow, and what is absolutely irrelevant.
--Send a text. If your e-mail isn’t working, consider the option of using text messaging, but understand that it is essential to communicate to key people in your business orbit that your e-mail is not working. Then, as soon as it is up and running, let them know (via e-mail) and get back to more normal business communication.
Finally, realize that while most of us want to be responsive and accessible in the way we communicate, most people understand that things happen. Smartphones break down. E-mails sometimes don’t go through. And, in the short run, we have a tendency to overreact and panic when in fact being calm and strategic is the image and, yes, the BRAND, we want to communicate. Clearly it is a nuisance when your e-mail is not working; however, it is NOT a crisis. It is just another business snafu that must be managed.
Once again, success in business and the world of communication revolves around not just what happens, but how you choose to deal with it. That’s never going to change no matter how many advancements there are in technology.