The Value of an Open-Door Policy, a Phone Call and a Handshake
Put down the smartphone. Step away from the email. Take a break from the emojis. Give your indoor voice some exercise and say something…out loud.
When it comes to communicating in 2020, it’s so easy to send a text, an email or an instant message (IM). Really, why would anyone pick up the phone or knock on a door to start a conversation when they can tap away on their smart device or laptop? I know I’m guilty of this, as I’m sure most of us are.
While I understand there is a time and a place for digital communications, they also offer a much too easy way out of engaging in live conversations and interactions. We are missing opportunities to learn and bond as a result. As business leaders, we have a responsibility to role model what effective communication looks like with our teams—which, in my mind, includes more live interactions.
I want to share five reasons why I encourage live interactions.
- They build trusting relationships.
I have an open-door policy in my office, which has helped foster an environment where my employees know they can come to me in person to discuss things that may be sensitive in nature, inquire about new opportunities or share concerns about a project, client or coworker.
Some things are just better said in person; doing so helps to build connections that just cannot be formed through the filter of digital technology.
- Engaging with coworkers creates deeper bonds.
Workplace communication doesn’t always have to be about work. It’s nice to learn about someone’s weekend, see pictures of the kids or gripe about the morning commute. But those asides don’t occur much over text, email or IM. With digital communications, our brains are wired to get our messages across in as few words as possible and move on to the next task. We’re missing the opportunities to relax, engage and connect with others in deeper, more significant ways.
Let’s not forget the power and team-building benefits of brainstorming, where everyone sits around a table and no idea is a bad idea. One person feeds off another’s suggestion until we have more opportunities on the board, in less time than it takes the same team to respond to an email chain. Employees leave these meetings empowered by their collaboration, having built stronger working relationships with their colleagues in the process.
- Your voice conveys inflection and emotion.
Have you ever read a text or an email from someone and taken offense when none was intended? Or not realize how serious an issue was because the Arial 11-point font didn’t leap off the page? We’ve all been there. That’s the nature of the digital beast: too much gets lost in translation.
In my experience, it’s hard to form genuine connections and meaningful bonds without voice intonations, facial expressions and even gestures that emphasize our ideas beyond words.
- Talking helps foster more effective conflict resolution.
While it’s much easier to send a stern email in response to a challenging situation rather than do it in person, when was the last time you actually looked someone in the eye and shared what’s on your mind? It’s the real-time exchange of dialogue with body language and voice inflection that paves the way to healthy conflict resolution. This is a mandatory practice in my book.
I truly believe that hiding behind a computer screen is one of the most ineffective ways of getting to the heart of the matter. Next time a situation arises, bring those well-thought-out, typed-up notes you were planning to send with you as you meet your colleague(s) or manager face to face. Keep them on hand for reference, for clarification or even to steel your nerves and give you the confidence to state your case.
And be sure to give the other person or persons the same attention and heed they give you. Understanding both sides of a situation and holding constructive conversations in real-time leave little room for ambiguity, which ultimately leads to a more productive resolution.
- Face-to-face conversations save time.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been stuck in a lengthy back-and-forth email dialogue only to pick up the phone to finish the discussion. While I generally try to avoid this scenario, it does happen—and it always serves as a reminder that email is not the most prolific way to communicate. The truth is, when you talk it out, you can accomplish the same objective (or better) in a fraction of the time.
Text, email and IMs are great, and I will always depend on those forms of communication in some aspects of my life. But the more I grow as a leader, the more I value authentic and meaningful connections. A smiley face emoji will never replace the real thing. Exclamation points after a “congratulations” do not feel nearly as good as hearing it said out loud—with feeling.
What are your thoughts on effective communications? Stop by or give me a call and let’s talk about it.