Many of us feel too old for new school and too new for old school. Just that happy medium of being equally disconnected from the latest trend and the most time tested practices. In the workplace, companies reward efficiency. The push for innovation has everyone racking their brain about how to be the first and the best at whatever is next. It's trimming the fat until you're as lean as you can get. Unfortunately, within some of that fat we've trimmed, were some great old school tactics that built relationships and drove culture.
I remember one time being approached to trim some "fat" out of life in an exchange for a technological solution. My wife and I had just purchased a new device on the market called a Garmin Nuvi. The magical device would tell us how to navigate anywhere we were going, which was handy because we were driving across country. On our drive I stopped to purchase a Rand McNally US travel map book. My wife and I had differing views on if I needed to buy the map or not. She was in the camp of "the Nuvi will tell us where to go", and I was in the camp of, "that's great, I want to know how to get where we're going outside the confines of the fastest route". I also did not want to be reliant on the tool. I wanted it to enhance my ability, not be my lifeline on how to get from point A to point B. I did, ultimately purchase the map, but still used the Nuvi has my new primary tool for travel.
Too often when we cut the fat at work, when we move to the most efficient way to get the job done, it's the relationship building aspects that are often eliminated. The human to human elements. Those are often the parts that take the most time. Automation, email triggers, and notifications are all great tools that allows us to operate very efficiently, but can easily make us dependent upon them. We start forgetting the importance of how to read the map or the value that it brings as we follow the voice prompts from the Nuvi. I'm not saying efficiency tools make us weak, I'm saying make sure that you're not being over dependent on them. There are plenty of old school tactics that people have tried, and failed, to incorporate into some of the new school workplace cultures. They fail because there is no need to try to reinvent them, and it's actually detrimental to your relationship building skills to skip them. They're wonderful! Here are a few examples of some tried and true old school tactics that you should think about incorporating into your life:
Hand written notes: If you still receive them, you know what they feel like. "Wow, they took time to write this and send it to me!". It's a great feeling. Emails and public kudos message boards feel good, but you can hang a handwritten note or card up, and have a visual reminder that you did a good job, and that someone cared. It doesn't have to be fancy. It could be a post-it note for that matter. Just a message saying, "I see you and I appreciate you."
Picking up the phone: The argument against this is usually, "I can convey what I need to convey through a message". I partially agree. You can convey details through a message, but it's hard to convey purpose, passion, emotion, or implied tone through a text message, IM or email. Phone, or even video calls now, allow for you to get on the same page, limits the amount of back and forth you have, as well as allows you to talk beyond the x's and o's to build stronger relationships.
Remembering people's birthdays: There is no holiday more unique to an individual than the celebration of them. That's exactly what their birthday is. We've really gotten lazy on this front. Maybe not "lazy" but for sure "reactionary". We've outsourced remembering birthdays to social media platforms, and celebrate them by adding to a "happy birthday" feed or sending an emoji. We've made it a box to check. It's not. Putting the birthdays of people that matter on your calendar, should be a priority. Hand written birthday cards show intention- that you went out of your way to think about them. If you know a birthday is on the horizon you can even bring it up. See if they have plans. It shows you remember, you know, and that you care.
Tech-free meetings: We could all use a technology detox when we have the capability to safely work together. I'm talking no laptops, no slides, just whiteboard markers, your ideas and your notebook. Being 100% present in the discussion. I understand we're limited in our ability to do this right now, but be ready to jump on it when you can!
This is obviously not an exhaustive list of ideas. If you think about going through life without social media, or even a smart phone, consider what you take for granted. Think about what you would need to know and be intentional about it in order to develop relationships. Think about what part of your life or work where you're using technology as a crutch instead of a tool to enhance your experience. That being said…
I ask two things of you this week:
Ask yourself, what are actions you used to do, but allow technology to make up for them now? Are there certain aspects you think would be beneficial to reclaim? Things that would help you to establish stronger relationships with people or show a higher level of caring. Is so, reclaim them!
Be intentional and make time to show people you care. Technology has made it easy for us to delegate this away to a quick click, or a thumbs up. The alternative, the way it "used to be", required time. Be prepared for the time it takes to do those additional steps to let people know that you care, and they matter.
This is not a call to abandon modern meetings or foundational tools that have enabled the hybrid work environment. The benefits of those technologies and advances are amazing, just like the Nuvi when we first made the purchase. This is a call to remember some of the great relationship building tactics that, to me, feel like we're starting to forget. What you do matters, and since they've started to slip away, those old school tactics often carry even more weight within the new school workplace.
Note: All of the opinions expressed in this article are my own, and are not a reflection of the viewpoint of my employer.