It feels to me like email is the most overused form of communication in the workplace today. I’ve already written a few posts about how bad email can ruin your team and a guide to writing more effective emails as a leader.
Email seems to be a crutch that is leaned on by leaders and organisations almost everywhere. It’s an easy form of communication to rely on.
Managing Emails Makes Leaders Feel Productive
When you go through your email inbox, you scan the list. Urgent, not urgent, no need to respond, funny cat video, irrelevant all-staff email…
Then you write replies to the emails that require it. Once you have hit send, that email has been “processed” and you have accomplished something, right?
There are several potential issues with the task you have just “completed”.
- You can’t fit all the required information in an email and still make it easy to read. Often the reader needs to find out the full story. This can result in a back and forth of questions and answers, creating more effort.
- Your email may raise questions for the reader to respond to. No work has really been completed at all. You have just moved the task from your list onto someone else’s, creating the illusion of productivity.
Choosing the Right Communication Method
Email is definitely an overused form of communication. However, it does help leaders communicate across timezones and record conversations that can be referenced for later use.
What we need to do is choose more appropriate forms of communication depending on the situation. We also need to take into account the location where we choose to communicate.
For example, I wouldn’t tell someone that they are going to lose their job using a personal phone call in the middle of an open-plan office. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this really happen in a workplace.
As a leader communicating properly is critically important. Both for your team to do their best work and for you to spend your time doing what you’re meant to be doing… leading!
Simple Questions to Help You Communicate Effectively
1. Would the person you are communicating with like everyone else to hear what you’re saying? If the answer is no, then consider choosing a private location where nobody else can hear.
2. Is your communication urgent? If the answer is yes, then consider using real-time methods of communication other than email. You need an instant response.
3. Does your communication relate to sensitive information such as salary or performance? If yes, then consider having these difficult discussions face to face, or at least by video call if you’re in different locations.
4. Will this communication require discussion? If yes, then cut out the back and forth emailing and tackle it with real-time communication where you can give and receive instant feedback.
5. Will your communication possibly result in conflict? If yes, then consider approaching this communication in-person or with real-time communication to avoid misunderstandings and to clear issues up quickly.
A Guide to Choosing the Right Communication Method
The following table is also a useful guide to choosing the right communication method, depending on the circumstance. Use it to help you communicate more effectively.
Communicating effectively is a vital part of leadership.
Taking shortcuts with communication is often a false economy, because misunderstandings can create more work in the long run as you need to explain yourself.
Communication can also damage your reputation if you do it badly. Be sure to think carefully about how you communicate and where you choose to do it.
Your team and colleagues around you will appreciate it.
When have you seen leaders communicate well or badly? Tell me your stories in the comments below!
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