As more communication up and down the line at work is done electronically, face-to-face discussion can easily fall by the wayside. While the speed and volume of communication increases with e-mail, voicemail and instant messaging, some of the dialogue and personal touch can start to disappear.
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.
“Too many people take the easy way out and try and do everything via e-mail and in a lot of cases consume more time on both sides of the equation than they would have by simply picking up the phone or going to see the person,” said one survey respondent. “I often find that when I look the other person in the eyes and ask them something I get far more than I ever would over e-mail.”
“Personal discussion is the foundation of communications,” said another respondent. “Once this foundation is established, it enables all of the other forms of communication. Having a personal connection builds trust and minimizes misinterpretation and misunderstanding.”
Reasons to Communication Face to Face
We all know how technology enables communication – email, voicemail, text message, instant message, Twitter . . . the list goes on. There are more than enough ways to communicate, and too often they add up to message overload for employees.
That’s why when something is important, nothing compares to communicating face to face. When a leader needs to inspire people—or move them to action—the best way to do it is to look people in the eye and tell them exactly what they need to know.
Communicating face-to-face sends a message before you say a word. People will not only hear what you are saying, they will perceive the greater meaning of your tone, voice inflection, emotion and body language.
Six good reasons for leaders to make the time to communicate face to face
1. Demonstrate importance
Being there in person tells your audience they are important to you and the issue you are discussing is worth your time and theirs. Your focus will get people’s attention and increase the potential for your message to be heard.
2. Interpret thoughts and feelings
When you are face to face, you can see and respond to people’s reactions – like facial expressions and body language – as well as their tone of voice. Leaders have the chance to show they care by asking probing questions and actively listening to understand the audience’s perspective. This is especially critical when you need employees to adopt new behaviors to advance your goals, such as in times of change.
3. Enhance credibility and trust
Leaders need to build employee trust to be effective. Face-to-face situations allow you to share your strategy, explain it clearly, and answer questions honestly. Employees see how actions align with words, which enhances leaders’ credibility and trust.
4. Build relationships
Interacting directly with other leaders, managers and employees expands your network and establishes shared experience that can enhance future communication. It also helps create camaraderie that is the basis of cooperation and success across the organization.
5. Gather feedback
Meeting in person helps employees feel valued and gives them a chance to contribute input to organizational strategies and communication. It gives the leader a chance to confirm people’s understanding of key issues, identify gaps and encourage ongoing feedback and engagement.
6. Address sensitive issues
You demonstrate respect for employees and a commitment to a successful outcome when you deal with a sensitive issue face to face. Whether you are providing specific feedback to increase their success or delivering a tough message, focus on your desired outcome and prepare by understanding the employee’s mind-set and possible reactions. Ultimately your involvement means a lot and taking the time to meet can help turn a challenging conversation into a trust-building interaction.