Face to Face Wins!

Early in my career, I learned a powerful lesson about communication.

I had just started my first corporate job, working at Rackspace. Prior to that, I had been in a 30-person investment firm where everyone was just steps away. At the time I joined, Rackspace had around 2,000 employees - obviously much bigger than I was used to.

I was a Financial Operations Analyst tasked to be a business partner of Rackspace's operating units, which meant a lot of working with various budget holders and other operations people out in the business. When I first started, I was using mostly email, but I quickly discovered that simply picking up the phone would turn a two day email wait time into an instantaneous answer. And when a project was really urgent, there was nothing more powerful than walking the 5-10 minutes across the building and camping out at someone's desk to resolve something and move the project forward. 

It sounds simple, but this tiny habit was a major contributor to getting stuff done...and moreover, I noticed that many of my colleagues did not seem to have discovered it.

Flash forward to today. I had received a call last week from a banker I had connected with several months ago. Things are really busy right now and I hadn't gotten around to calling him back. I was on the way back to my office from lunch, and I looked up and realized I was right outside his building. I was about to pick up the phone and call him, but thought better of it and walked in.

Luckily for me, the banker was between meetings and happy to have a drop in. The conversation we had was fantastic, and there is no doubt in my mind it would not have been so rich had I called him on the phone instead. I shared an update about how we are doing with Contact Mapping (sooooo close to launching the beta version!!!), and as we talked about it several of his contacts came to mind who could be of help to us. I don't think we would have gotten there on the phone.

And as we were sitting there chatting, I glanced over and saw a photo on his desk of his beautiful wife and 13-month old triplets (!). I got to hear about life with three kids in diapers (spoiler: not much sleep!), and hear a little more about his family. Again, sitting across from him opened up a dimension of our friendship that wasn't there before.

In a world where we have ever easier and quicker ways to communicate with each other, taking the time to get face to face is more powerful than ever. And because the world is rushing in the other direction, it's becoming more differentiated too. All it takes is to take the time.

Photo credit: Bryan Apen