The only “grandpa” I ever knew on my dad’s side of the family was also the only “dad” my dad ever knew. In fact, my grandmother was married, a mom, a widow, and remarried in the span of 19 months.

But here’s the rest of the story.

Bill married grandma (and conceived my dad) just before he and his best friend Gene joined the navy and left Seattle to serve in World War II. It wasn’t much later that grandpa contracted tuberculosis, came home on medical leave, and died.

When grandma wrote Gene a letter to let him know his friend had died, he wrote back asking if they could continue to write. And write they did. And they fell into a love that lasted 65 years.

All thanks to technology.

It’s easy to think of technology as computers and Facebook. That would be wrong. Most of human history didn’t even have pens and paper, let alone airmail to get a note to some lonely sailor on a ship.

So which who are you?

Hopefully not this Bank of America employee…

The story starts with a “chalkupy” protester voicing his opinion (in chalk) on the sidewalk in front of BofA’s Manhattan office. The police asked him to leave, so he took to Twitter to voice his complaint.

BofA responded with what looked like a polite response: “Hi Mr. Timmis, I work for Bank of America. What happened? Is there anything I can do to help?”

Then Twitter erupted*.

On one side were the posts of people (mostly the opposition) who were angry with BofA.

On the other side, quite unfortunately and the point of the story, BofA kept responding. With the same few scripts. Repeated. Over and over.

The non-BofA folks in the conversation assumed BofA’s responses were generated by a bot (a computer-automated ro”bot”). Indeed, you’d have to look hard for tiny clues that it wasn’t a bot giving the same verbatim responses.

BofA claims that there actually was a real person behind the tweets…which almost makes the story worse. That means BofA had “programmed” a person to respond in a computer-like manner. Absent of humanity. Absent of connection.

Which who are you?

Never mind for a moment that this is some serious gasoline on the fire of those who think large institutions have become faceless (or worse) entities.

The problem is not a technology problem. Technologies are tools from an arrow to a shovel to a pencil to Twitter to a learning management system.

The problem is a people problem.

Dare I say it’s a connectorship problem.

Your goal is to reach, teach, and lead (I presume it’s not to find a husband). Of course we’d rather be in the same room with those we’re trying to connect with, but it’s not always possible.

The intent, skill, and execution that lie behind the technology on your side does – or doesn’t – engage, educate, or empower. Online or off.

If leadership is the art and science and skill you develop as a leader, connectorship is what you develop as a connector. As John Maxwell notes, “Connecting improves your influence in every situation.” Your objective might not be influence in the sense of leadership or selling, but it’d be just as accurate to say that connecting improves your effectiveness in every situation.

If you’re stuck on the in-person paradigm and Twitter is a foreign language, if you’re struggling with people who come from a very different life perspective, or if you’re not sure how to lead those who are, it’s likely you’re “leaving money on the table.”

It’s also likely that those who are working to master connectorship — someone who’s competing for your job, an organization competing for the heart and mind and wallet of your customer or employee or student – will be nipping at your heels.

Which who are you going to be?



*For the newsier version of the BofA Twitter fail story, check this out: http://www.digiday.com/brands/bank-of-americas-epic-twitter-fail/. For the full (uncensored) version, catch this one: http://eksith.wordpress.com/2013/07/07/bank-of-america-bot/.