Transcript of Using Technology to Build Connections in the Real World
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John Jantsch: I love technology. I love the fact that we can communicate and work virtually, however there’s no question that these tools and technology have created a sense of isolation for a lot of people in companies, a lot of marketers with their customers. In this episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, we’re going to talk with Dan Schawbel, and we’re going to visit his book called Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation. Check it out.
Stuff like payroll and benefits are hard. That’s why I switched to Gusto. And to help support the show, Gusto is offering our listeners an exclusive limited time deal. You sign up for their payroll service today, you’ll get three months free once you run your first payroll. Just go to gusto.com/tape.
Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. And my guest today is Dan Schawbel. He is a New York Times bestselling author, partner and research director at Future Workplace, and the founder of both Millennial Branding and workplacetrends.com. He’s also the author of Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation. Welcome back, Dan.
Dan Schawbel: So happy to be here. I was thinking this morning. I’m like, “I’m going to talk to John.” And when did I first connect to him? I mean, it’s got to be 2006, 2007 when there was the Ad Age 150. Remember that?
John Jantsch: Yeah, I kind of do. Yeah.
Dan Schawbel: And when it went up I’m like, “Huh. Well, I aspire to be on that list.” And I think strategically it’s probably good to know everyone on there because they all love marketing, and I’m a marketer, even though I’m a marketer in HR now. It’s always my skillset and I always looked up to you. You always provided incredible content consistently. You were passionate. You had a great model. I just really liked it, and I think you do a great job.
John Jantsch: Well, thank you very much. I guess we’ll pass out compliments here because just in watching what you’ve done over the last decade, a lot of people have jumped on this personal branding thing years ago. And you have done as good a job of building a personal brand as really anyone online. And mainly it’s because you’ve been so consistent.
Dan Schawbel: Thank you. I appreciate it.
John Jantsch: Let’s get into the book. I’m kind of reading this because I want to get it right. But I want to let you unpack this. Back to Human reveals why electronic and virtual communication, though vital and useful, actually contributes to a stronger sense of isolation at work than ever before. I’m guessing that’s the main premise of the book, so unpack that for me.
Dan Schawbel: Absolutely. Technology has created the illusion that we’re so connected, but in reality we feel very disconnected, isolated, lonely, less committed to our teams and organizations over the overuse and misuse of technology. It’s not like technology’s a terrible thing. It’s really about how you use it. And so I interviewed 100 young leaders from 100 of the best companies in the world, so Johnson and Johnson and GE and Uber and Instagram. And everyone described technology as being a double edged sword. It’s done some great things. But at the same time, it’s made us think we have a ton of friends, Facebook friends. And it’s made us think that we are being incredibly collaborative and accomplishing great work, when the reality is we might get some stuff done, but the relationships we have with our coworkers are not as strong. And it’s much easier to leave a team of acquaintances that you sometimes email and work with than a team that feels like a family.
John Jantsch: Yeah. And it’s funny because technology has obviously enabled us to work differently. I have a client in London. I have a client in Toronto. I’ve never sat face to face with either of them. I have employees that are in seven different states, and rarely do we ever see each other. It’s enabled us to work in different ways, but there’s no question there’s a whole new set of practices I think to try to kind of regain some of that humanness, as you talked about in the book. Aren’t there?
Dan Schawbel: Yeah. And it’s interesting because I think especially today when people are working so, so hard, in America the average workweek is 47 hours a week. And not having your phone is the new vacation. We’re always kind of on the hook. We’re always kind of on duty. We feel guilty if we’re not responding to a business email on vacation or after “work hours.” Right? Because of the remote work revolution and the ability to do work using technology and connect wherever and whenever you want to, the downside is that we get burned out. We have weaker connections. We feel stress and anxiety, so it can be bad for our health. And the most fascinating finding, I worked with Virgin Pulse. My company, Future Workplace, and Virgin Pulse partnered in a study of over 2000 managers and employees in 10 countries. And it revealed something really fascinating. If you work remote, you’re much less likely to want to say you want a long-term career at your company.
Working remote has all these positive things that people talk about, having the freedom and flexibility to do work when, where, and how you want. And it lowers commuting costs, of course. But the downside never gets talked about. And that’s isolation, which creates loneliness and then unhappiness. It’s all connected. And so consciously, as someone who’s worked from home for almost eight years, I’m always thinking about: How can I break up my day so I’m meeting people, whether it’s for business or personal? And it’s like when we look at our calendars, our calendars are created for business. Right? And we always say things like, “If it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t exist.” We let the technology try to do the work for us.
If we’re going to let the technology do the work for us, it should also have aspects of our personal life on our calendar. That’s part of what I’m saying when it comes to work, life integration and being conscious about if you’re working so many hours and you’re kind of always working, how do you break up the day so you’re fully maximizing your time, and you’re fulfilled personally and professionally? And the first chapter is called Focus on Fulfillment. You need to become fulfilled before you can sit down with all of your team members and help them accomplish their goals and service their needs. And the things that remain consistent, as you know, you’re born, you pay taxes, you die. That’s the big joke. Right? Probably through multiple generations.
Well, what about we only have 24 hours in a day? And then our needs in terms of the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs remain the same regardless of how much technology we have. We need food and shelter, and then to be loved and have friendships. Otherwise, we’ll never be self actualized. We’ll never be able to reach our full potential and be the most productive worker imaginable for our company.
John Jantsch: And you know what’s interesting, there’s so many companies today that have distributed workforce. And I find myself falling into this habit. I have our check in meetings, and at the end it’s just like, “Get to it. Work. Work.” It’s like we never have that what we used to call, around the water cooler time, where it’s like, “Hey. How was your weekend?” It’s just like, we’ve got this call, it’s scheduled. It’s for a purpose. It’s like a meeting, so we never have that time to in some ways get to know each other. One of my favorite chapters in the book is this idea of shared learning, where you may be … I think you have to carve out these things. Don’t you?
Dan Schawbel: You know what’s amazing? So many people have said they’ve liked that chapter. And the reality is the reason why I think that chapter is so in the now is because true power, and you’ve done that, we’ve grew up in the world of blogging, so we know this very well, is true power and influence in our society is not the people who hold onto the information. It’s those who distribute it freely. And I think that’s a big shift from maybe 10, 20 years ago versus today.
And we need to share what we know with the people we work with and care about, so all of us can keep up with the speed of business and adopt the changes that are inevitably happening, whether we like it or not. The average relevancy of a learned skill is only five years, so we have to keep on moving. The big skills now are artificial intelligence, machine learning, data scientists. You’ve got to keep going. You’ve got to keep up with what’s changing. And if you don’t, the tasks you did five and 10 years ago are just not going to be as relevant. You’re going to get paid less for them and you’re going to struggle.
And in order to know this information, in order to know the trends that are going on in your industry, learn the new skills, see the latest research study, we have to count on each other because we’re finding more and more information through our network. I mean, that’s the brilliance of Facebook. Right? It’s like, I don’t have to figure out what’s going on in the news. It’s going to come to me based on who I follow and friend.
John Jantsch: Yeah. And I think you could take that a step farther. I know in our organization, what we try to do is almost task people with saying, “Hey. Go find out about that and come back and teach us all.” And I think what it does is, it has the dual effect of, as you said, we get to learn some more. But as you know, nothing makes you learn something better than if you know you’re going to have to teach it to somebody.
Dan Schawbel: Well, actually now that you bring that up, I did a whole presentation on this. Google has a G to G program, where employees teach other employees what they know. And it’s all volunteer basis. But I think people naturally want to be teachers. They might not want to be part of the school system, but they want to share what they know with others because it helps them learn and master it more. And it’s good for your career. Right? You become an expert. You’re sought after. You build a network. It’s really the crux of personal branding, what I did earlier in my career. Right? It’s become the best at what you do for a specific audience, or become really good at multiple things when combined give you a competitive advantage. And then just give freely. I mean, between us, how many pieces of content you think you and I have generated in 10, 20, 10 or 15 years? Like, thousands, right?
John Jantsch: I’ve got 4000 blog posts.
Dan Schawbel: Yeah. And personalbrandingblog.com, I think we hit 5700. And then if you add LinkedIn, Facebook, all the other networks, writing articles, like we have books. It’s a lot.
John Jantsch: Wouldn’t it be great if in your business, all you had to do was the stuff you love, the reason you started the business, and not all that administrative stuff like payroll and benefits? That stuff’s hard especially when you’re a small business. Now I’ve been delegating my payroll for years to one of those big corporate companies. And I always felt like a little tiny fish. But now there is a much better way. I’ve switched over to Gusto, and it is making payroll and benefits and HR easy for the modern small business. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits, and great service to take care of your team. To help support the show, Gusto is offering our listeners an exclusive limited time deal. If you sign up today, you’ll get three months free once you run your first payroll. Just go to gusto.com/tape.
Another thing I like about your book is that you put a lot of exercises in there so people can try what they kind of have read about. And you’ve even created a test or an assessment, the Work Connectivity Index. Tell us about that.
Dan Schawbel: Yeah. I always wanted to do an assessment for my book. I saw what Sally Hogshead did with Fascinate and what Gallup did, and Tom Rath with Strength Finder. And I was very inspired by them. I’m like, “Huh. I’d love to do it someday.” And on this book I had the idea. If I’m studying work connectivity, what about having an assessment to tell people how strong of connectivity they have within their organizations? Right? And so you get low connectivity score versus high connectivity score. And people are all in the middle of that. And so I reached out to seven professors. It was like first come, first served. The first one who was really excited about working with me got it, so it was Kevin Rockman, a professor at George Mason University helped me create the assessment. It’s on workconnectivityindex.com. When you take it, you’ll get a score. And of course, if you have a low score it means that you’re not getting enough face time and you’re not building the type of relationships that are required to be happy and fulfilled and successful in today’s working world.
John Jantsch: You’ve also created a LinkedIn learning course, which I think is awesome. I’ve done about, I think I’m up to about seven courses with them. They’re great people to work with.
Dan Schawbel: Wow. You win.
John Jantsch: You know what it is, you go out there and they go, “This guy’s easy to work with and he gets done fast. Let’s give him another one.”
Dan Schawbel: Especially when, I know this probably true to you as well, I finished I think three hours ahead of time, and they love that because the beach is right there.
John Jantsch: Exactly. I love going to Santa Barbara. But they told me they had one person come in and it took them four days to do a course. I was like, “Wow. I would shoot myself.” One of the things that you are so good at, and I think a lot of people neglect this today in the online world, is you have done a great job at attracting mainstream media. Obviously, you’ve picked some hot topics, and that’s one of the ways to get attention. But I’ll ask this question really for business owners, but other authors out there. What’s been your secret to get so much pub? You get as much as anybody in the mainstream, I think.
Dan Schawbel: Yeah. I think I’ve generated, it’s definitely thousands of media impressions at this point, or media hits, I would say. And you know what, it’s a cross between right topic, right time, trying to be original, staying in my lane. Any time I venture out of my lane, things don’t work out well. I’ve done a whole research campaign on politics that failed. Anything that’s outside of my domain, it typically doesn’t do well because you have to be seen as the expert in what you’re publishing, or publish what you want to be an expert in. And if you aren’t doing that, you’re not going to be seen as a credible source no matter what you’re putting out there. Focus on your strengths. Stay in your lane. Double down.
And think of something original. For me, I’ve led 45 research studies surveying about 90,000 people in 20 countries in six years, so I’ve been all in with research because it allows me to create something new, find something and share and disseminate and distribute those findings through books and speeches and media and various forms. I think you need a good network. I have an advantage being in New York because the media’s here, clearly. That has helped. I won’t deny that. Second, I think you need to figure out what makes you unique. Right? What topics do you think that you have something to say about? If you have nothing to say, and so in interviews, that interview’s not going to go well, and you won’t be invited back.
The other thing is start small. Back in the day, I was doing local TV, radio, some of the smaller outlets, which prepared me for the bigger outlets. If my first interview was on the Today Show, I would’ve bombed it because I didn’t have the experience. So I bombed a local ABC affiliate. I didn’t bomb it, I just didn’t perform at my best. But that was good because it was a learning experience. And then I knew that even if they give me the questions, that they might not ask the questions. They might do a trick question, so it’s being prepared for everything. And then I think it’s just being easy to work with, like what you’re saying. It’s like being very responsive. For me, I’m very responsive. I get immediate inquiry, boom, I just go for it.
Back then, I’ll tell you, phase one in my career with personal branding, it was my only goal was to own the search results for personal branding in Google. That was the only strategy I had, but of course that connects to doing a lot of other things right. And that got me almost all my original media that allowed me to build my platform. And then I think phase two has been more on the research, so it’s harder to get press now, so I need to create news instead of hoping that I can fit into the news that’s currently happening.
John Jantsch: And the media loves statistics, [inaudible 00:16:56].
Dan Schawbel: Yeah.
John Jantsch: It’s something that can be simplified into one sound bite. And unfortunately, that sometimes is what it takes.
Dan Schawbel: And I think phase three, the way I’m seeing it now is really building your own platform. I just started my own podcast. It’s called Five Questions with Dan Schawbel, really active on Instagram, two posts a day, seven days a week. Instagram is my new blog. It’s exactly what I did. How I’m operating Instagram is exactly what I did in the early blog days. Back then, I posted twice a day. And it was longer form with blogging. And I commented on every Instagram, or blog profile, or blog website, sorry, that mentioned personal branding. Today, I’ve chose maybe six or seven profiles and I’m always commenting. And between commenting and posting every day, I’ve gone from four to 26,000 followers organically in a little less than four months. That’s it. That’s all I’ve done.
And of course, people I’ve met have read the book, so I get some followers just based on reputation. But most of it’s earned, and it’s just a lot of work. And people don’t want to hear that it takes time. I think phase three is you’ve really got to double down on your own platform because the probability of getting seen in traditional media is declining significantly. I used to do campaign. My first campaign, John, was in 2012. Literally went viral. I analyzed four million millennial Facebook profiles, Today Show, CNN. It was everywhere, 70 national media outlets, so people saw it.
Now it’s like maybe you get 10 at most. And I’ve been doing this for six years consistently. In one year, I did nine studies. And I’m telling you, now if you do something like that, it’s much harder to break through. Books, it’s harder to break through. So that tells me, that to me is feedback that, okay, I need to double down on social media and building my own platform and leveraging everything I’ve done to do that because the future could be grim. I think a lot more of these media companies are going to go under, and new media’s going to be rising. I think you’ve got to shift strategies as this is happening. And that’s the call I made, is I’m moving my efforts.
John Jantsch: Perfect segue to the last question I wanted to talk about. We’ve been talking about social media here for a minute. And there’s a lot of people that would claim social media has actually made us less human, probably one of the biggest culprits of making us less human. How do you, in the vein of how great leaders create connection in the age of isolation, how do you do that with the realization the social media is an important channel?
Dan Schawbel: Great question. The motto for the book is to let technology be a bridge to human connection and not a barrier. Use the technology to schedule a podcast interview. But when you’re in the interview, hopefully it’s audio or maybe video, and so you’re getting to know the person. Use it to connect with others to get them to go to a meeting, or a networking event, or an office birthday party. And by the way, found through the book that the number one thing that leaders should do is create more social events and company outings because that is what employees really are looking for right now, is to build relationships in that respect. And it’s lacking. Only 20% of companies have those type of social events, and that’s kind of broken.
I think, let technology lead you to the human interactions instead of just relying on it as crutch, thinking that technology’s going to do all the work for you. Use it in order to make those initial connections. And what you’ve been so good at this too is in the early days, you would connect with so many bloggers. But then there would be blogger meetups. And you’d meet them in person. For me, as an introvert, it’s much easier to reach out via email or text, and then actually meet in person. I feel more comfortable because I feel like I already know you. I think when and when not to use technology is what we have to think about.
John Jantsch: Awesome. Speaking with New York Times bestselling author Dan Schawbel. We’re talking about Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation. We’re going to have links, of course. We always do, to everything we talked about, like the assessment and the book itself, of course, and even the LinkedIn course. But Dan, tell people where they can reach out and connect with you.
Dan Schawbel: Absolutely. You can go to danschawbel.com. That’s S-C-H-A-W-B-E-L.com. And you can go on Amazon or your local book retailer and pick up Back to Human, and then listen to the podcast, Five Questions with Dan Schawbel. Thank you.
John Jantsch: Thanks Dan. It’s always great to catch up with you. Hopefully we’ll run into you out there on the road.
Dan Schawbel: You got it, my friend.
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