One of the best pieces of business advice that I ever received was from my keynote speaking and storytelling mentor: connect as a human first. However, this idea goes way beyond professional speaking. As a business owner, connecting as a human first should be at the forefront of everything we do.
Don’t Let Automation Replace a Human Connection
We sometimes get so caught up in making life easier for ourselves and streamlining our business that we can easily lose our connection to the people we are trying to serve. For example, I used to own a franchise that worked with families with aging parents. One of the things the franchisor had in place was a phone answering service, and they wanted us to have our entire business model set up so that when people would call the phone number, the service would answer the phone and then email us the message. When we received the message, we would call the person back.
This was a reasonable idea, as we were all new entrepreneurs and didn’t have large teams. I understand what they were trying to do. They were trying to add a layer of humanity; of people answering their phones instead of just leaving a voicemail. But I wanted to take it one step further because I wanted a more immediate response, so I hired an assistant. She would answer the phone so that our clients, vendors, and prospective clients could call in directly and she could forward them to someone on my team who had the correct information. That way, we could help people immediately instead of calling them back later.
Getting the franchisor to allow me to do this was an absolute battle. They feared that I could not hold up my end of the deal. Ultimately we set it up so that my team member answered the phone during the day and then she would forward the phone back to the service when she was done. I was one of only three out of 200 offices with that setup. I also got my office to the top 10 out of 200 in about 18 months. One of the reasons I know that we were able to achieve such fast growth was because of this idea that we would always be connecting as a human first to make it easier for people to work with us.
While you can save time and money using automation to make things easier, you should not rely solely on automation for those activities with hefty price tags or significant outcomes attached to them.
Human Connection is More Powerful Than Credentials
The same mentor who taught me to connect as a human first also taught me never to compete on experience. He was a Speaker Association Hall of Fame member and earned $50,000 for a 45-minute talk. He told me about how he once lost out on getting booked for a gig and when he asked the event organizer why they chose the other speaker instead of him, he was told that while his talk included 8 key points, the other speaker had 10 points in their speech!
Any of us who have put content together knows that having eight points versus ten points was just for organizational purposes. And yet, the perception was that the person with ten points had greater value than the person with eight points. Never mind that the format was entirely contrived to make delivery easy.
This example does not mean you should not use your credentials to promote your business and compete for speaking gigs, clients, and other things you want to achieve. But they cannot be an end-all, be-all solution. You need to combine them with human connection to have the most value.
Technological Tools Help You Be Efficient to Free Up Time to Connect
Technology is there to help you be more efficient in the tasks that do not need a human connection so that you can have more time to connect with other humans in the areas that need interpersonal relationships. I was on a podcast recently talking about connecting and talking to people, and the person with whom I was speaking said her own business didn’t take off until she started personally talking to people ALL the time
I am not saying at all not to use automation and the AI tools that are available. It’s not about not using them. It’s about using tools to make you more efficient, allowing you to be more connected and take more of the light load off your plate so you can focus on creating an emotional connection. It’s about using tools to make you more efficient and allow you to be even more connected on a grander scale.
I was part of an amazing mastermind for three years, and one of the things that we used to say was beyond the mentor’s teaching and the insights she provided, what she was terrific at creating was not just a community but an environment within this community to be seen, witnessed, and immersed with other women as we all verbalized our big dreams. And then to be personally supported without judgment, not just by her as the leader but by this entire community of women. Her ability to create deep human connection within a community was the beauty that underlined everything she did.
There is study after study about Gen Z, who has been brought up the most immersed in technology and how lonely they are. They want human connection. They’re literally starving for interpersonal connection.
Let’s look at Amazon for a minute as an example. I’m a big fan of going online to buy what I want. You can get virtually anything you need with a few clicks, delivered the next day. But as much as I love Amazon and the ease of making those purchases without having to leave my house, TikTok is full of human stories of the delivery drivers involved in Amazon. People share their Ring doorbell videos of the funny things that happen to them and the beautiful things they do sometimes. Our Ring doorbells are capturing the no-people-required access to what we want. But we also love the human aspect of the end of the experience. You can have both automation and AI and human connection.
As we are nearing the end of 2023, we’re going deep into our plans for 2024. If you want to know what it will take to succeed as a leader in 2024 as a business owner in 2024. It will be those people who can figure out how to connect as a human first, on a larger, deeper scale.
To learn more about how to incorporate more human connection in your business, download our ebook, Connect as a Human First.