The Power of Your Presence


The Power of Your Presence

My experiences recently have convinced me more than ever of the value of face-to-face meetings. But as I reflected more deeply on why I believe this, I was led down an entirely different road that took me straight back to one of Parker’s core values. Excellence in Communication.

As I get older, I can increasingly appreciate life’s ironies. You see, when we crafted our core values nearly seven years ago, I was openly dismissive of holding up this core value as one of the Big Six. I thought holding communication was unnecessary because any good company would inherently have good communication and singling it out was superfluous.

I turned then to ChatGPT. As an aside, ChatGPT has quickly become an invaluable tool to help me write these articles each month, not to author them, but to help me broaden and explore different perspectives and to find connections in my thoughts. ChatGPT did just so by helping me appreciate that building relationships and connecting with fellow humans are at the heart of great communication.

Any great personal relationship, like marriage, requires open and excellent communication to flourish. If you read an article or book on great or faltering marriages, one of the first things the author will tell you is how important the exchange of ideas and understanding perspective are to building a great relationship. Most of those exchanges occur face-to-face because the stakes are high for success. Why?

Because it’s not just the words that matter. It’s the non-verbal cues during the exchange that tell you so much more than the written word. Albert Mehrabian, a researcher of body language, first broke down the components of a face-to-face conversation. He found that communication is 55 percent nonverbal, 38 percent vocal, and 7 percent words only. To see the non-verbal cues, being in the same room is essential.

The same is true for critical business conversations. For difficult conversations, face-to-face is so much more effective because reading the room, observing how people react to messages, and tailoring those messages to move the conversation forward is crucial for success. This brings me back to my recent experiences.

Last week, I participated in a meeting between two teams that have historically not worked together as well as they should. It was the first time these two teams had actually met in person. Because these teams were dispersed geographically, the effort to get in the same room was never emphasized. We chose convenience over effectiveness, and I won’t make that mistake again. We covered a lot of ground, learned new information and set the foundation for a much better working relationship going forward because we showed up, leaned in, listened and found common ground. That might have happened if we had met via Zoom, but I doubt it.

You see, making the effort to show up in person has the added benefit of conveying to everyone else around the room how important the meeting is. But the benefits didn’t stop after the effort. The fact that we were face-to-face also had the effect of keeping emotions in check. As parking professionals, we all know how easy it is to receive real hostility when we aren’t face-to-face with someone. When you’re in the room together, it’s harder to get angry, and civility and respect reign as the guiding principles. These non-verbal cues helped us tackle challenging topics and work through them. 

The lesson I learned (again) is to skip Zoom or Teams and get nose-to-nose when the stakes are high and the outcome is critical. This takes me to the second example last week where face-to-face interactions proved pivotal to success.

We just got back from a wildly successful conference, and I’m thrilled to report the activity and interactions were as good as any I had experienced before the world went virtual. It was non-verbal cues that demonstrated to me the value of being there in person. The booth traffic was great, but it was the casual interactions that made all the difference. In many cases, the people that intercepted me could have just as easily avoided me, but they didn’t. They told me I was important to them because they caused a “collision.” It was refreshing to have people seek me out and affirm my importance to them. 

If I were to put a fine point on this column, I would say, “Make the effort to get in the same space with people important to you and cherish the opportunity to SEE them and their non-verbal cues.” Relationships are built and lost in the space between us, and now that we can meet, I’m no longer taking the easier road when the stakes are high. Want to meet for a cup of coffee? Name the time and place, and I’ll be there

Article contributed by:
Brian Wolff
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