The Key to Our Future
A few weeks ago I was speaking at a conference in the brand new Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Denver, Colorado. At the luncheon the manager of the hotel welcomed everyone to this new flagship property, which is creating a lot of buzz in the hotel industry for its breakthrough technology. They are using easy touch kiosks in the lobby of the hotel for self-service check-in and check-out.
I noticed these kiosks when I came in the day before. I had a choice between having a human agent or a computer assist me; I chose the human! The manager proceeded to brag that in their first 90 days of being open customer satisfaction surveys showed that on a scale of 5.0, the computer kiosks had an average rating of 4.8 while the humans trailed with only a 4.6. I found this very disturbing.
Then yesterday I went to my local post office and was pulled out of line to try their new automated kiosk. I was told it does everything a postal worker does, but in less time. The manager stroked it like a proud father and said, "If I only had five more of these my life would be so much easier!"
I was floored by these two examples of how computers are replacing humans. The reality is if your job can be automated, or outsourced, it soon will be too! It's only a matter of time. So what is the secret for those of us who would like to still be employed 10 years from now? The answer... your ability to effectively connect with others.
Thomas L. Friedman, author of The World is Flat, A Brief History of the 21st Century (2005 Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), claims that we need to be really good at "the touchy feely service stuff" because anything that can be digitalized can be outsourced to the smartest or the cheapest producer. I had heard about this book many times in the last year, but had never read it until this month. This is a gripping book that will keep you up at night, especially his realities on how technology has leveled the playing field for the brightest and the most efficient - worldwide - to excel in today’s global economy.
Friedman presents a pretty compelling case that being a collaborative, cross-boundary networker is also an essential career skill needed to survive in today's workplace. This theory applies to both your internal (company-wide) and external networks. So many laid-off executives who I meet never invested in building an effective internal network or demonstrated their value to their organization. They simply showed up, did their job and thought that was good enough. As Friedman states, "While we were sleeping, the world became flat," and to survive and thrive we all need to communicate our "value add" and "networth" to our clients, co-workers and customers... every day.
But we can't do it alone. Collaboration is the new currency. The Internet has made it so easy to build a global network. Currently, I have a collaboration going with several colleagues spread throughout the country. We formed an alliance to better serve our clients. We have weekly telephone and web conferences that allow us to communicate in real time, crossing over three different time zones. The creativity, innovation and networking that happens from this peer-to-peer exchange is bringing us new and exciting work that we would have never gotten alone.
Do your clients, customers, and employer know your value add? Have you been investing in building your social capital and networth? How have you crossed boundaries to collaborate and expand your network both internally and externally? Here are a few suggestions:
Perfecting Connecting® Tips:
Perfecting Connecting® Action Steps:
- Let technology be your friend. Join one of the many global online networking groups that will connect you to people you want to meet, literally all around the world. Check out: www.eacademy.com; www.linkedin.com; and www.yahoo.com for just three of the many growing number of online networking groups. Also www.skype.com is a free computer telephone service that will allow you to call contacts all over the world for free. All you need is Internet access.
- Remember it's called network not netplay or netstill. You have to work at it! The definition of insanity is doing what you’ve always done, yet expecting different results! If you want to expand both your internal and external networks, then set weekly goals and stick to it. Spend more than an hour each week reaching out across departments, state lines, and countries to expand your sphere of influence.
- Collaboration is king. Look for ways to "build a bigger pie" in your industry. If your suppliers, competitors, and partners do better, we all do better. Have a positive intention and be sincere about wanting to help people. Look for opportunities to join a "mastermind" or networking leads groups where collaboration is king. As my friend and fellow speaker Bertice Berry says, be a "quilt worker" rather than a networker, because nets have holes. Look for ways to build trust, especially with foreign businesses, by weaving connections for them. It is just like sewing a quilt with totally different looking fabrics all connected together.