Effective communication skills are absolutely critical to being an effective leader. You need to communicate your vision in a powerful way, engage your team on that vision, and ensure that they are clear on what it is they need to do.
There are different communication tools you’ll need to master as you start in the corporate world. One of the biggest errors you can make is to mix the tools: sending a chain of emails when you could have walked to the desk of your colleague two metres away, or vice versa organising a meeting when you could have just sent a quick email.
Let’s see which tool is the most effective in the workplace in different situations.
When you should send an email:
- Asking or answering simple questions: if you’re just requesting a document or asking for a simple piece of information, then a quick email will do the job
- Informing a vast group of people on a relatively simple topic: this will include things like quarterly business updates from your VP or announcements from HR
- Asking for a task to be done by a certain deadline: when you’re allocating tasks on a particular project then sending an email with a clear deadline will ensure that you have a message thread on which you can follow up later
When you should organise a meeting:
- Covering a sensitive topic with one individual: you want to make sure that you show that you care about the person and that you are giving uncompromised attention to this person, while also keeping things confidential by not setting it down on paper
- Informing a 4+ group of people on a complex topic: a meeting will allow them to ask questions and allow you to adapt your message to the reactions of the audience; the same applies when you need to reach an agreement on a complex topic
- Leveraging the creativity of a group of people: brainstorming via email is never going to work! When you’re brainstorming you want the energy of people in a room together, coming with their spontaneous thoughts and building on each other’s ideas, capturing all this on a board; email is far too static as a medium
- Solving a complex issue: meeting in person will allow you to go through the available information together, ask and answer questions, reach an understanding on the issue and ultimately find a solution
When you should give the person a phone call:
- Discussing something when face to face is not possible: if your team is a virtual one, then of course you won’t be able to meet regularly in person and a phone call or group conference will be the best way forward, either for an informal chat or for a deployment or training session
- Avoiding misunderstandings: it’s easy to misinterpret an email as you can’t hear the tone of voice or see the person’s body language, so if you’re unsure of something it might be best to simply pick up the phone and ask, just to avoid any unnecessary mix-ups
When should you move from email to meeting?
You should stop the emailing and move instead to a meeting or a phone call when the thread has become long and when misunderstanding starts polluting the discussion.
When should you move from meeting to email?
On the other hand, following a meeting you’ll want to summarise the discussion and capture next steps in an email. This will also give you a good platform to follow up later on the actions done by you and your colleagues.
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