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Being More Human

I recently read Back to Human by Dan Schwabel. This book was published in 2018 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The book describes steps for leaders to make great connections with their teammates and followers. He focuses on the "Work Connectivity Index" to measure the strength of teams in the workplace, but throughout I couldn't stop thinking about the pandemic. Being physically isolated, working remotely, and living on Zoom all created a mental state of isolation within us all. We hungered for real human interaction and a simple hug/handshake.

In my career, I always knew the value of personal connections. As an optometrist, it was my goal to make every patient feel like they were important to me and part of my work family. I always inquired about their personal lives and careers. I wanted to find out common experiences. "Oh, you work in finance? So, does my wife!" "That is wonderful that you've been able to travel to Italy! I was there, too!" "I see that you love football! My Dad is a huge Miami Dolphin's fan!" These simple connections began to form a doctor-patient bond that went beyond a transaction. I always hated when a person called my office to find out, "How much is an eye exam?" Why did this bother me? Well, an eye exam in my office was not a commodity. It wasn't a pair of Ray-Bans, but an interaction with a caring and skilled health care provider. Do you go to the cardiologist and ask, "How much is this going to cost?" I doubt that you do. The person on the phone didn't realize that they were going to get to spend some quality "human time" with me. I was not an ATM or vending machine, but a real doctor that was going to talk with you about your life and your health. How can we compare that experience solely based upon price?

My point is, that human connections take you beyond a transaction in an exam room and as a leader it takes your personal relationships to another level in the workplace. During COVID-19, we all felt isolated. For me, I hated this feeling. I wanted to be with my students, my colleagues, and my team. It was hard for me to sit on Zoom calls all day without real human interactions. We scheduled "Happy Hours" on Zoom with the KYCO faculty because I missed everyone so much. I even taught everyone my recipe for the perfect Old Fashioned cocktail on Zoom (we live in Kentucky!). So, what did I gain from this book about "Back to Human"? I don't think that I learned much that I didn't learn from being an optometrist for the past 30 years. Human connections matter and elevate any relationship to a higher level! I am very impressed that this author wrote this book prior to the pandemic. His insight into the isolation that comes along with technological interactions rather than face-to-face interactions was impressive.

I'll end this blog like he ended this book...with a challenge! Put down your phone, turn off the television, silence your notifications and get offline. "There is no going back in time, but there is going back to human." Take care of one another, show love and respect. Offer a hand when needed and hug often!

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