Face-to-face Communication: What happened to it?

As leaders, how many of us would rather use email, text, or a phone call to share important information with key people?  It is quick, easy, and avoids uncomfortable situations; however, too many leaders hide behind electronic messages and then wonder why results are dismal.  Sharing critical information “face to face” takes preparation, skill and intestinal fortitude.  Many leaders know it leaves them vulnerable to tough questions and/or comments.  Anyone can deliver the good news, but when it’s not what someone wants to hear, that’s when it gets difficult.  Not all messages are received in a positive way, plus you have to deal with frustration and resistance on the spot.  You have the choice to be an effective or a run-of-the-mill leader.

The question to ask is, “How important to the business is the topic and resulting action?”  When you can’t afford a critical message being misinterpreted, try your best to do it in person.  Nonverbal actions by the message receiver are nonexistent when electronic messages are used.   “Face-to-face” will allow you to see if the other person truly understands your message or if there is resistance to it.

An important way to confirm understanding of your message is to have the other person recap including the action needed.   By the receiver putting it in his or her own words, you have the opportunity to make sure your message was clear or to clarify any misinterpretations. 

A mental model for sharing important messages is: Who needs to know + what they need to know + who is best to tell them + how will it be delivered + deadline to do it + deadline for action.

Ask yourself what’s in it for you to use “face-to-face” communication and what’s in it for the receiver to hear it directly from you.  If it’s important that you deliver it in person, then it should be passed down the line the same way.  A virtual workforce can present a challenge; however there are electronic methods one can use.  Skype is an example of one of these methods.

The next time you have something important that needs to be shared, try going back to the basics of “face-to-face” communication if you want to make sure the message is received, understood, and acted upon.