Valuing People


Cross posted on Tar River Educator Blog

I am going to share a pet peeve of mine, and I know it seems insignificant, but I believe it’s particularly important for leaders to think about this type of thing..

This year I have made a conscious effort to communicate face-to-face as much as possible, or call someone on the phone, even though sometimes it can be more “efficient” to converse via email. I’m one of those few people who still doesn’t have a texting plan on my cell phone – I only use the cell phone for making calls, and my plan has a shared number of minutes with my wife of only 550 minutes a month. Too often we as people, and especially leaders, forget the human component of the jobs we do, and that is most obvious in how often we substitute authentic communication for “efficiency” (didn’t I learn somewhere that 70% of communication is non-verbal?)

This is actually a fairly common rant I read, so I don’t feel I’m sharing anything revolutionary. What I don’t ever read (or hear), however, is the how to use technology well when people rant about this topic. Let me share with you two things that have happened this week… First, I sent an email to a person in my district asking a simple yes/no question. All I got back was a one word email with the word “Yes” in it. The second is an email I sent to another person in my district letting them know I had done something they asked. This one at least had two words: “Thanks tom” (yes, they had my name in lowercase). They did not sign the email or anything, but it did have the customary “This was sent from my blackberry” tag line that many people have on their emails.

So, a few things.

First, why can’t people put a greeting in their emails? I’m not saying I need a formal, “Dear Tom” or “Most beloved friend and colleague:” A simple “Tom – ” at the beginning of the email would be nice.

Second, why can’t people sign their emails with something more than their pre-filledout signature that the email program automatically inserts? It’s kinda like getting a letter from someone and realizing they did nothing more than use a rubber stamp to sign their name.

Third, get rid of the darn taglines at the ends of the emails. I am so tired or reading that emails are sent from Blackberries, iPhones, iPads, or any other electronic device. I’m seriously considering putting at the end of all my emails, “This email was manually typed on an old-fashioned keyboard on an old-fashioned desktop because I think you are important enough to receive my best instead of a quick text message that I send on a whim.”

When we do these things I personally believe it helps reinforce that people we communicate with have value – call it the technological equivalent of looking someone in the eye when they talk to us. Technology is a great tool and an asset, but let’s not put it above the human resources we need to function in our world.

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