Recently I was quoted in this CNBC article on the 6 Mistakes You Should Never Make in a Work Email. It prompted me to consider when email, phone calls and meetings have served me well at work and when they haven’t. Read below for communication lessons learned and share your own insights in the comments.
When to call versus send an email?
Don’t send an email when you need to give (constructive) criticism, when you need clarification, when you’re upset, or when an issue or item is sensitive. Call instead. True story – I remember being upset by a coworker’s email that seemed to imply I wasn’t getting a particular project done quickly enough. Rather than shoot back a terse, angry email, I immediately picked up the phone and called my colleague. It turned out he didn’t mean to make me look bad at all. In fact, he thought I could use help and his email was meant to get other people to pitch in. Calling (over emailing) immediately helped me clarify the situation and resolve it.
What if you need to meet with a colleague or boss – what’s the best way to get their full attention?
You need to ask for permission. In other words, don’t just barge into someone’s office or cubicle and assume he or she can drop everything to speak with you. Rather, start off by asking if they have a moment to meet with you. Asking not only shows you respect him/her, it also will give you his/her full attention. True story – I had to work with the CEO at one of my past employers and often found it difficult to get his attention. But I started asking for permission to ensure he had a moment to speak with me. Once I did this and I got a yes, I immediately got his focused attention. And if he said no, I was able to ask when a good time to meet would be and come back later. This simple change in how I approached our meetings helped me get the CEO’s undivided attention.
Now that you’ve got their attention, how to conduct an effective meeting…
To conduct an effective meeting whether with one person or a boardroom, you need to have an agenda and a set of objectives. An agenda is the amount of time you have for each topic you want to discuss. The objectives are the what you want the discussion to yield. Examples of objectives include a decision, a set of next steps or the designation of a point person. Writing down an agenda and objectives for yourself before the meeting and sharing them in an email with your attendees will not only help your meeting be more productive but everyone will know what’s expected and what the point of meeting is. True story – When I was a management consultant, it was my job to run the team meetings for my client. At first, I went in just with a list of talking points of the items we needed to discuss. Our meetings ran over time and nothing seemed to get accomplished. Then I started to create an agenda and objectives for each meeting (which I sent out to the attendees ahead of time). Immediately the meeting time focused on what needed to get done and we were able to easily finish on time.
The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives” – Tony Robbins
What communication do and don’ts have you experienced?