How do you know when it is best to communicate with an email or whether you should pick up the phone and call? Or when might a face to face conversation be more appropriate? How can I really communicate effectively to the people in my organization?
In a recent coaching time with a new leader, we talked about this issue. It is easy to feel overwhelmed with all our responsibilities as leaders and miss connecting with our people. So, before you craft that next email and hit “send”, consider the advantages and disadvantages of various methods.
Advantages of email
- It is fast. You can communicate with anyone in a second
- It is global. You can communicate with anyone, anywhere. So if you have people across the country, or across the globe, you can send information instantly.
- It is cheap. If you have internet, sending an email costs nothing
- It gives you an easy to reference record of your communication.
Disadvantages of Email
- It is impersonal, or at least can feel that way.
- It can be misunderstood, especially when the person fails to re-read before sending. Communication can be unclear and you either have to send more emails back and forth…or pick up the phone and call to sort things out.
- It can lead to emotional responses. I have made the mistake of firing off an angry response to an email that only escalated the tensions.
When I refer to email, Facebook, Twitter and other social media have similar advantages and disadvantages. According to Mashable post[i], social networking has become more popular than email. But I already learned that from my kids! For more advantages and disadvantages of email, Time Management Success[ii] has a great post on this topic. In general, I have found that if the email is going to be more than a few lines, it is better to pick up the phone.
Advantages of Phone Calls
- It is easier to ask questions and give feedback. It is much easier than sending emails back and forth for two days.
- It is easier to reach agreements and usually much quicker.
Disadvantages of Phone Calls
- Communication by phone is oral, so agreements still have to be written down and sent in an email.
- Sometimes it can lead to conversations that are too casual.
Advantages of Face to Face Conversation
A CIO article, “The importance of face to face communication at work”[iii], says, “A global survey shows that 67 percent of senior executives and managers say their organization would be more productive if their superiors communicated more often by personal discussion. While they desire more personal discussion from their superiors, however, the top personal method of communicating for these same business leaders is e-mail, based on the survey by NFI Research.”
- Face to face is more personal. Dialogue is personal and consensus can be reached easier, especially where more than two people are involved.
- Surveys show that nonverbal communication is anywhere from 50% to 93% of our communication. Face to face gives you the chance to pick up on all those nonverbal clues.
Disadvantages of meeting face to face
- It can be more costly since it requires travel to other cities
- It requires more time away from home and family.
In conclusion, there are many advantages and disadvantage for email, phone calls and face-to-face meetings; it depends a lot on the situation and the person. You have to know the person and what his or her preferences are because, in the end, it all boils down to relationships. I’ve found that emails, phone calls and face-to-face meetings all can help you start or continue conversations but you still have to do the hard work of building the relationship.
What kinds of communication have helped you build better relationships with your staff or those you coach? I invite you to leave a comment here.
[i] From Mashable.com article, http://mashable.com/2009/03/09/social-networking-more-popular-than-email/ accessed on Sept 16, 2011
[ii] Time Management Success article, http://www.time-management-success.com/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-email.html lists 10 advantages and 10 disadvantages of email. Accessed Sept 9, 2011
[iii] Chuck Martin writes for CIO. His article is found at http://www.cio.com/article/29898/The_Importance_of_Face_to_Face_Communication_at_Work, accessed on Sept 9, 2011
[iv] Weblinxx article, http://www.weblinxx.ca/blog/2011/07/06/facebook-with-skype-vs-google-hangout-hands-on-comparison-digital-trends/ accessed on Sept 16, 2011