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Can You Hear Me Now? 3 Ways to Create a Connection with Others

Isn't it ironic that technology is supposed to help us connect better with the world and yet technological gadgets are the one thing that threatens our ability to connect with each other?

Our devices allow us to send and receive information at lightning-fast speed. We receive countless messages daily with the simple swipe of a screen. We crave connections and inclusion, yet our digital habits threaten our ability to make meaningful connections with others. We need real relationships to achieve professional success and personal fulfillment, yet we seek inclusion and information from digital relationships that lack any real value in our lives.  

While technology provides 24/7 access to the world, it comes at a cost. We move at hyper speed, failing to take the time necessary to craft messages properly. Our communication skills weaken, and our ability to influence others deteriorates. We seek validity from what's on our screen instead of the relationships that define us. Because we've developed this fear of missing out, we compromise the feelings and perceptions of others by prioritizing our devices over them.

How do we make a change? How do we value those in front of us and foster relationships in a way that everyone benefits? We can start by making mindful changes to our digital habits and using technology merely as the tool it was intended.

There are three ways we can redevelop our communication habits and demonstrate how much we value our relationships with employees, co-workers, friends, and family.

1. Put the phone away

The mere presence of our device has the power to disrupt meaningful connections. It signals to others that your phone takes priority over interacting with them. Brigham Young University studied the effect technology had on relationships and discovered a significant psychological component that jeopardizes our ability to make meaningful connections with people right in front of us. Our attachment to devices lowers our ability to relate to others and foster relationships through traditional forms of communication.

Studies show that when smartphones aren't present, the quality of our conversations improves. Our ability to empathize with others increases when we tune into facial expressions, posture and other nonverbal cues.

Make a change by creating rules for yourself and others at home and in the workplace. Set times of day when digital gadgets are not allowed. Create a no-phone rule in meetings. At home, ban phones and digital devices from the dinner table. Establish distraction-free zones where people can give and get the undivided attention needed to foster strong relationships.  

2. Give mindful attention

Consider the last time you were in a serious conversation and the phone rang. It likely killed the conversational momentum. Phone users are typically distracted, having little awareness of those physically present. Even when we don't take a call or respond to a text, the momentary distraction of a ringing phone or chiming alert is enough to divert our eyes and consciousness to something other than the person in front of us. It subconsciously sends a message that there is someone or something more important than the person right there with you.

Make deliberate eye connect during face-to-face conversations. The most important way to make an authentic connection is through eye contact. It helps us sense what others are feeling, despite what their words are saying. Real connections prosper from physical presence, openness, compassion and observation. It is the key to feeling included and valued.

3. Purposefully engage

Personal and professional relationships suffer from overuse of and overexposure to digital addiction. Like parents with their kids, leaders miss the opportunity to engage employees on a meaningful level. Instead of having face-to-face conversations to inquire about projects, tasks, and obstacles, they rely on email, texting and instant messaging. These communication methods fail to share the entire picture, because the nonverbal aspects are missing. Leaders can't sense tone or emotion through digital communications. They may read that an employee is struggling with a project deadline but fail to see the fear and frustration the employee suffers as a result.

Worse still, when the opportunity to connect in person becomes available, leaders too often allow their phone to become a distraction. They take calls mid-conversation, respond to texts and emails or look at their screen's alerts. This sends a message that the phone is more important than the employee. It reflects a lack of interest on the leader's part, which results in a lack of interest on the employee's part. This is how expectations are set, and the workplace culture shifts. If the leader doesn't care enough to give their undivided attention to the employee, then why should the employee care enough to give it to the customer?

Establish a time of day when you walk to employees' desks to chat without your device. Ask about their work, projects, priorities and more. Compliment their achievements and acknowledge their efforts. Be mindful to engage with employees without fear of distraction. Invest your time in their well-being and create authentic relationships that bring meaning to the workplace and other's lives.

Set the example at home and work by changing the way you interact with digital devices. Prioritize real relationships and focus on making authentic connections by giving your undivided attention to every interaction. Habits are hard to break, but it can be done. Start by taking these small steps to shift your priorities, digitally disengage and invest in relationships that matter.

What Trait Do Successful Businesses Share? Strong, Internal Core Values

Company values have long been a driving force in consumer engagement and brand reputation. Some examples of these values include Patagonia's sustainability mission, Swell's goal of eliminating plastic bottles and Everlane's commitment to ethically-made clothing.

Now more than ever, consumers, clients, and employees alike are demanding transparency with a company's values, and this increased demand for transparency is playing a growing role in decisions by consumers about where they want to shop and work.

Outbound mission statements need to start from a foundation of strong internal company values – principles that are lived day to day by everyone from the CEO on down. When principles are established and everyone abides by them in a company, it fosters a workplace where employees are more invested in each other and the work they're doing, which lays the groundwork for success in all areas.

I come from a family of entrepreneurs who believed strongly in cultivating internal company values and have passed down several lessons to success. My great-grandfather and his four sons rose from poverty to start the Winn-Dixie grocery chain and built it into one of the leading grocery stores in the U.S. My grandfather entered the family business and continued its expansion, all the while building a personal philosophy on how to lead by example to run a successful business.

I've made my career in the B2B space, but I've found that the lessons I learned from my grandfather apply across both B2C and B2B, and to both global organizations and small neighborhood operations.

Here are five of the core company values I learned from my family that I strive to achieve in my own business and why these seemingly simple tenets can be key drivers to your company's success.

1. Treat everyone with dignity and respect. The good old Golden Rule should be a given in all aspects of life, but it's funny how profits and ego can get in the way.

2. Do what you say you're going to do. This one comes from a place of transparency. Always honor your commitments while being upfront about what is needed to do so. Decisiveness, reliability and results are crucial for earning the trust of both your colleagues and clients.

3. Do the right thing. You can run a successful business and deliver value to your clients without having to cheat, lie or succumb to other temptations. Believe in what you can bring to the table and the rest will follow.

4. Be passionate and make great things happen. Enthusiasm is contagious. A clear passion for your work, combined with recognizing the effort and contributions of dedicated colleagues, can fuel the creativity and productivity of your entire team.

5. You are not powerless. Fostering a sense of empowerment and collective responsibility throughout the company encourages innovation and builds in additional checks and balances. When everyone's ideas have value, we all become more invested in the company's success.

These core values have held up for me through the valleys of recession and the peaks of rapid growth. The reason they have served as such invaluable guidelines is that I live by them each day, both in my business and personal life. I never want these values to merely be talking points, copy for a website or propaganda.

Putting them into action on a daily basis and leading by example lends credibility to the importance and impact of these ideas. Taking the time to get to know each employee through regular small group lunches or acknowledging that a planned release needs more time to bake – these seemingly small things all reinforce our values and demonstrate that they're more than lip service.

As you evaluate your business operations and goals, work to identify areas where you can improve internal buy-in and growth, whether it's diversifying your decision-makers to increase employee empowerment or implementing steps to increase transparency. A strong foundation – employees working from a set of shared core values – lays the investment and groundwork for your company to succeed.

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