January 20, 2016 • Bookshelf

“Reclaiming Conversation”

Reclaiming Conversation was recommended by Adam Kaufman, a longtime friend that was a member of my first Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) forum back in 2001. Of course way back in 2001 the group was called Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization (YEO), permitting only members under the age of 40.  Thankfully, the powers that be at YEO figured out that youth is not a requirement to be an entrepreneur.

Now, if you’ve perused my prior book discussions, I don’t really give reviews, rather I share my thoughts, observations, and typically what I hope to change.  Reclaiming Conversation discusses how the impact of constant contact via social media, e-mail, YouTube, etc…, coupled with the requirement to always be on call, has altered the way younger people interact with one another.  Do they understand how to sense the way someone is really feeling?  Have empathy towards others?  Or even have the ability to self-reflect?  I’m confident these changes are not only in younger people, but in 49 year olds like me.

The more I read this book, the more I began to notice the events in my life and how “reclaiming conversation” was something I wanted.

Here are just a few of my observations and thoughts:

  • Electronic devices in meetings reduce the experience for everyone. I will preface this with, I used to be against this concept.  I remember the first time I met Rene Boer, a very talented Certified EOS implementer, who works with our partner companies.   I pulled out my iPad to take notes and he asked that I please put it away.  He explained that he had a “no electronics” policy.  I remember thinking, “what a ____.”  Soon after, I was hosting a meeting with all of our partner company leaders, and one of the leaders asked if he could use his iPad to take notes.  I didn’t push back.  However, as I read this book, I remember reflecting on this meeting and realizing how little this leader added to the conversation.  He actually was a drain to the rest of the group.  Needless to say, I now understand and appreciate the power of a “no electronics” policy!
  • Face to face conversations now revolve around phones.  I was at dinner with my three sons and 5 of their friends, and they were all laughing and having a good time.  I stopped to listen to what they were talking about, and it all revolved around videos on You Tube, text messages, and “hot news” from a non-present friend.  They were all looking down at their phones or trying to show what was on their phone to their buddy.  At that point, I forced them all to put their phones away (not an easy ask for a group of teenage boys), and miraculously within 2 minutes, the conversation shifted to hockey games, girls, food and other eyeball to eyeball topics.
  • Quickly solving a question isn’t always best.  Half way through the book during the holidays, I attended my neighborhood holiday party where someone used the term “pontificate.”  Everyone in attendance started discussing whether the word had been used correctly.  As we started going around the group, each person came up with a definition, and great laughs ensued.  However, about half way around the circle, someone chimed in with “that’s what phones are for.”   This same person then took out his phone and read the definition.  The result:  the conversation was over, laughs stopped and the group disbursed.
  • Be in the moment.  Traveling a great deal, I found myself sitting in the Atlanta airport, my plane late and the air a little stale and hot.  That being said, I consciously did not jump on my computer to respond to e-mails, rather I looked around and noticed facial expressions.  No one on their computers or phones were smiling.  …but the mom walking with her 3-4 year old, the couple talking, the kids playing cards were ALL smiling.  And much to my surprise, I was smiling too.  It is fun to pick up your head up and look around!
  • Using your phone tells others to stay away.  Take note, if you immediately jump on the phone during a break in a meeting, on an elevator, or even when you walk in a room, you are telling others not to approach you.  It’s a fact.  I notice this every day and you are missing the good stuff!
  • Breathing the same air creates bonds. You can’t create true friendships through e-mail and text messages.  This one just makes sense.

Commitment to Reclaim Conversation

At ScaleCo, we have stopped allowing electronic devices in our leadership meetings – it’s a game changer!  I would also like to commit to start replacing e-mails with phone calls more often.

And personally, I have committed to put my phone away when I’m with my family & friends.  Fair to say, when I announced this in November, my family didn’t believe it could possibly last.  Now I know change takes time, but am happy to report that after these past few months and my commitment still holding, I truly do feel much happier and I think my boys are too.  I’m still working on my wife!

About ScaleCo

ScaleCo Capital is a Cleveland-based lower middle market private equity firm that focuses on control-oriented leveraged buyout and growth equity investments in fast-growing companies based primarily in the Great Lakes region. ScaleCo partners with companies in the verticals of business services, tech-enabled services, value added distribution and assembly, and training, compliance, and education sectors, bringing operational expertise and strategic resources to scale their growth potential and build long-term value. To learn more, visit scaleco.com.

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