There are a ton of ways to opt out of difficult conversations. You can avoid them by not responding — just another downside to the advancement of technology. It allows us to be cowards so easily. We say things we would never say in person, approach people as if they aren’t human, and operate from emotion instead of logic or reason. I understand that people think our digital world is helping us solve problems more effectively, but I think it’s bulls***.
I’m in meetings nearly all day. No matter where I am — Boston, Boulder, or my backyard at the farm — you’ll find me in a meeting. It’s a sure fire way to get burnt out, but I’m determined to solve problems by talking them through in person rather than going back and forth on email. You can easily hide behind an email. So I have a simple rule: Emails are great for getting updates, but never effective in solving problems. If you want to solve a problem with a team or a team member, you pick up the phone and call them.
What's Wrong With Email?
At Spartan, we build better humans. This happens out on the course, but it also happens at home base. I push my team harder than most. I expect that they show up to work with enthusiasm, lean in when support is needed, and get s*** done. I’m relentless when it comes to executing a strong work ethic, and if you’re not interested in working hard then I’m not interested in having you on my team. I’m also determined to build up my team, which means encouraging them to choose courage over comfort. And what’s not courageous? A bulls*** email or Slack message that subverts issues and creates drama. I want my team to be able to have difficult conversations and choose what’s hard rather than what’s easy.
What’s the best way to lead? Role modeling. So that when there is an issue that needs resolving and even a team meeting isn’t getting it done, then a direct phone call is warranted. Growing up, I watched adults get s*** done and work things out all day. There were no emails, no texts, no direct messages. When something needed fixing, you huddled up directly with the person involved and you fixed it. We’ve become so soft in our social skills that a direct conversation with a human being feels like something out of the stone age playbook. And yet, it’s hands down the most effective way to solve a problem.
The Formula for Effective Communication
First, when you’re solving a problem in person, your tone and body language speak volumes. If the formula 55/38/7 doesn’t mean anything to you, then listen up: Scientists believe that 55% of communication is received through body language, 38% is through tone of voice, and just a measly 7% is the spoken word. You know what that says to me? That communicating in person is a sure fire way to avoid misunderstanding.
Finally, our brains are happier when we are connecting with people in person or over the phone. When we have a conversation with someone, our brain has a little neurochemical celebration which allows us to listen better and experience more empathy. Both are critical in coming up with good solutions to any problem. We don’t get this celebration when we are typing behind a computer or messaging someone from our phone.
I have a serious love-hate relationship with technology. In truth, technology has allowed us to expand to more countries than I ever dreamed and give people access to incredible content when they are looking to level up between our events. But technology is killing the essential social skill of problem-solving and confronting difficult issues face to face. Don’t just push yourself in the gym — push yourself at the office when you want to fire off that angry email to the coworker who is right across the cubicle from you. Stand up, walk over, and have a conversation in person. It’ll make you stronger every time.