Fieldamental #20: When in Doubt, Communicate Personally

WHEN IN DOUBT, COMMUNICATE PERSONALLY. When delivering difficult or complex messages, or in emotionally charged situations, speak “live” versus hiding behind e-mail or voicemail.  Where appropriate, follow-up in writing to confirm your understanding.

OK, it’s time to speak candidly; we need to do a better job of communicating personally!

This is our lowest rated Fieldamental.  We did a “baseline survey” as we started our Fieldamental journey to help understand what was working well and what we needed to focus on.  Communicating personally was the lowest rated Fieldamental for our team, our customers, and our suppliers.  We must fix this!  The good news is that this that we can change our collective behavior relatively easily if we all commit to making minor changes in our day to day routines.

Communicating personally can be just as simple as getting up from your desk to talk to someone down the hall, across the room, or in another part of the building instead of replying to an e-mail.  It could also be a simple as picking up the phone and talking to the people involved in a challenging situation.

Communicating personally means not avoiding conflict or emotionally charged situations.  It means not replying again to an e-mail string that feels like a ping pong match, lots of back and forth, with no resolution.  Communicating personally is a commitment to not “hiding” behind e-mails.  If you are involved in an e-mail communication that is not getting closer to a resolution, stop doing what is not working and start finding a solution by communicating directly, personally, with everyone involved.  Commutating personally means NOT leaving a voicemail for someone and talking directly to the key people on a tough issue.

When we communicate personally we resolve issues faster and with less potential misunderstanding.  When we communicate personally we minimize the chance for misreading someone or overacting to an e-mail.  You just got an e-mail with parts of it in BOLD TYPE, was the other person “yelling” at you, did they want to just emphasize something or maybe they hit caps lock by accident?  If you were talking to the other person directly, you would have a much better ability to assess the true meaning of what is being communicated.  Voice inflection, body language, facial expression, words used and overall appearance can dramatically affect the message being communicated.  Communicate personally with the sender to better understand the meaning of the message and be better positioned to respond appropriately.

Technology can be your friend in this Fieldamental.  Go to Meetings and Skype may and not as good as a face to face meeting, but these tools are much better than voice & e mail.  Find the best way to utilize these collaboration tools with our team, customers and suppliers.

The last aspect of communicating personally is to document the communication after it happens.  Summarize the critical aspect of the conversation, all follow up activities and define the next steps of the process.  Do this immediately after the conversation to minimize potential misunderstanding that could develop over time.