In today’s world you often work in cascading explosions of micro-urgencies.
You look up, you see the time, the afternoon has passed in quick bursts as you move from project to project, email to email, text to text — and you realize, Hot damn, I haven’t spoken to a soul all afternoon.
I work in a relationship-driven world — the art world. We cease to exist as an enterprise if we’re not minding three relationships very carefully:
— With our clients
— With our artists
— And with our creative ecosystem
The clients and the artists are self-explanatory. High-quality relationships with clients beget sales.
We only represent living artists — this means we support these hungry rent-paying necessities-needing art-supply-devouring special organisms only if we sell their work!
With artists, we get the best work for our clientele from deep relationship building. A bad relationship and we get no work at all. A mediocre one and the artist might send inferior work, or old work that hasn’t sold elsewhere — those wretched orphans who’ve traveled tiredly from gallery to gallery to gallery pleading for someone to take them home.
It’s the creative ecosystem that’s easy to ignore.
This ecosystem is comprised of your team, your vendors, your landlord, your neighboring tenants, the crew who cleans the grounds — who wants to step across a yucky half-eaten burger tossed on the sidewalk the night before just for the honor of viewing your high-priced artwork?
Not many, I can assure you. Not the ones who buy.
Recently I read a study stating that for most better-paying jobs it’s still the soft skills that edge you into the higher pay brackets. Writing, communication, negotiation — and most especially — relationship building.
Master those and you better control your destiny.
Toward the end of a voiceless, talk-free afternoon of silent conversational interneting that went on too long and caused an eye twitch, that study rose up in my mind and confronted me.
I was thinking of our team — of exhorting them to call more frequently and not just rely on texts and email — when my mind pointed out my hypocrisy.
I needed to call more often. I needed to speak to others in person more often, even on our own team!
With our artists too.
You’ve had this frustration, right?
Where you text back and forth, back and forth, you discuss the when, the where, you go back for the details that are missing — Was that Wed or Thurs? — Did you mean the Starbucks on Blankety Blank Boulevard or the one on Streetly Street — the cryptic messaging that leads to misunderstanding, opening new lines of inquiry and clarifications–
And then you think, A phone call of a minute and a half would have solved that.
Twelve minutes of texts flying back and forth furrily provides good thumb exercise, little else. It detracts from your day and your momentum.
A week ago we had a client text, Can’t wait.
Hmmmm, was that, I’m excited, I can’t wait to see you even though you’re running late??
Or was that, Can’t wait, I have tickets to view airy proto-fairies on ice and must scoot off or I’ll miss the first number.
Digital communications can be notoriously imprecise.
So my mini-challenge for Week 9 was to talk to someone at least once a day that I would normally email or text.
Guess what? There are far more real out-loud laughs when conversing over the phone than LOLs ever loosed from mildly clever texting.
Making these phone calls — to artists primarily, but also to individuals in our ecosystem — reminded me how much extra can be gleaned from conversation versus digital communication.
Artists would clue me in on goings on in other parts of the art world. Personal tidbits would spill out — same with laughter and camaraderie. Successes elsewhere would finagle their way into the conversation, which would prompt a, Hey! We should try that at Studio E Gallery too!
For vendors and freelancers it was the same thing — suggestions welled up easily.
But more than the business plusses, oh the humanity! To communicate with people voice to voice is to establish a real connection.
I write about these weekly micro experiments long after they’ve taken place. Which allows me some elevation to gauge if there was an effect beyond that particular week.
This micro challenge has lingered with me. To the point where a little niggling crops up in the back of my mind whenever I go too long without a person-to-person conversation.