Email is the most overused form of communication in the workplace today. For example, this Campaign Monitor article suggests that the average office worker receives 121 emails per day.
Email seems to be the communication method crutch that is leaned on by leaders and organisations almost everywhere. It’s an easy form of communication to rely on, and that’s the problem.
If you do need to write emails, read how to do it better here: The Essential Leader’s Guide to Writing Better Emails.
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 need it. Once you have hit send, that email has been “processed” and you have achieved something, right?
There are several potential issues with the task you have just “completed”.
1. You can’t fit all the required information in an email and still make it easy to read. Often the reader still needs to find out the full story. This can result in a back and forth of questions and answers, creating more effort.
2. 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.
Unfortunately, processing emails seems to make people feel productive, but in reality, we are just moving the workload off your plate and onto someone else’s.
Choosing the Right Communication Method
Email is definitely overused. However, it does help leaders communicate across timezones and record conversations that can be referenced for later use.
It is also an “asynchronous”communication method, which means that we can respond when we are ready, not in real time.
What we need to start doing is choosing more appropriate forms of communication depending on the situation. We also need to take into account the location in which we choose to communicate.
For example, I wouldn’t tell someone that they are going to lose their job via 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 want 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 message urgent? If the answer is yes, then consider using a different means rather than email. You need a quicker 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.
For help on having those difficult conversations, try the eBook here: Difficult Conversations eBook.
4. Will this communication require discussion? If yes, then cut out the back and forth emailing and tackle it with a communication method where you can give and receive instant feedback.
5. Will your message possibly result in conflict? If so, then consider approaching this communication in-person 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 situation. Use it to help you communicate more effectively.
Being a good communicator is a vital part of leadership.
To learn more about leadership communication, read this post: 5 good communication skills every leader needs.
Taking shortcuts with communication is often a false economy, because misunderstandings can create more work in the long run as you need to keep explaining 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 your colleagues will appreciate it.
What are your communication disaster stories or successes? Let me know in the comments below!
Alternatively, if you would like to ask a question or need some help, you can send me a private message through my contact page.