Executive Bio

Face Time Still Matters

These days most of our face time seems to come by Zoom, Teams, and a host of other applications meant to improve connectivity, boost collaboration, and engage us in a more efficient and effective manner. Naturally, folks have figured out how to measure these benefits. I wonder, however, if they are measuring the most important quality of connectedness – commitment.

As a project manager traveling the country to build large data centers and offices, I spent a lot of time on airplanes and in hotel rooms. I made sure I also spent a lot of time engaging with other project members outside of the office, building personal commitment through shared experiences and friendship. I had three purposes in mind: Learn about the individual and whether I could trust them, build a personal relationship that was important for both of us, and have some fun doing it. As I said to the principal of an electrical engineering firm one evening at dinner when asked what I really wanted to know, I replied, “It’s simple. Will you be there when the chips are down, regardless the time or difficulty? Are you invested in your fee, or the success of the project?”

When building relationships, trust is the most important objective. If I believe in your commitment and willingness to do whatever is needed, then I have confidence in the overall objective. Here’s the thing; trust is a two-way vehicle. By definition; it cannot move in only one direction. When I have yours, you have mine. I want to look those I must depend upon in the eye and make my own decision about their loyalty and credibility, and I expect them to do the same. When we both come to a point of commitment then we have something that matters.

I know that things have changed, that this kind of face time and personal commitment is more and more difficult to achieve. Many teams now seem as if they are too organic, here now and forgotten by the end of the day as everyone rushes off to the next important thing. My belief is that commitments based in personal investment and trust are the most valuable sort. These commitments will answer the phone at two o’clock in the morning and do what must be done to solve a problem now, not think about it after the office opens. In my experience, it is not only the terms of the contract that dictate trust, but also personal connection and commitment that can only come through engagement, transparency, and investment.

My question today: How are we developing the kind of deep commitment that builds relationship, energy, and commitment with those we depend upon in these unusual times? I used to share dinners, ball games, and even family meals on occasion, and do not recall ever being disappointed when I had to make a call. Investments in relationship building through comradery, trust, and commitment are important. The technologies we use and how we achieve it may be different today, but the truth remains – face time still matters.

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