Friday, August 17, 2012

Leadership Tip: Choose the Right Form of Communication.

Should you write, email, text, IM, Facebook message, call, or go in person?  It all depends.  Who are you trying to reach?  How well do you know them?  How urgent is it?  What have you tried so far?  What is that person's preferred mode of communication?

Email is great - except when it isn't.  One of the regular complaints I get from beginning leaders is that they tried to gather a meeting or to recruit volunteers, but no one responded to their emails.  Some people are great email responders, and some just read everything and reply to almost nothing - especially if a reply requires thought or commitment.
One way to increase the effectiveness of an email is to combine it with a text message.  This reminds people to check their email.  (Some just don't check very often.)  Also, it is a small flag noting the urgency of the issue.  However, if the reply can be done with a text message, you might consider skipping the email altogether.    One nice thing about text messages is that people can still receive them while in meetings when they can't answer the phone.  Also, they can save them up and respond to you later when they are on a break.
Another option for email is to start with a mass email to get the easy responders.  Then, move to text message to get the next set of responses.  Finally, close out the slow responders with direct phone calls.

For people in your email contact list, a five minute Instant Message conversation with Google Chat or something similar can be the most effective way to touch base with a short Q and A session.  This avoids the annoying relay of emails with one short question after another.

Facebook has roughly 15% of the world registered as users, and nearly 50% of young adults are regular users.  Take advantage of that.  If it's not private or boringly business, post a quick question on someone's wall or send them a FB message.  Also, Facebook's Events are a great way to gather people for a meeting or party.

But old Alexander Graham Bell is still exerting his influence in our lives.  A phone call is often the best way to go.  It's more personal, and it's immediate - if they answer.  Follow up a non-answer with a short text asking your question or explaining why you called.

Still nothing beats face time for important issues.  If the person's office is just down the hall, avoid the temptation to email or call.  Take a butt-break and walk the 20-30 steps to ask your question in person.  A face to face query is particularly important when making a request that might be refused in a less personal format or when asking someone to volunteer for something.

On rare occasions, snail mail is still the best way to go.  For a particularly unresponsive company that was kind of hosing me, I sent a strongly worded letter via registered mail threatening to bring them to court and blast news of their bad behavior all over the internet.  They returned my money within a week.

You need to get through to people.  You need to do it in the best way with the best time frame possible.    Part of being a good leader is choosing the right communication for the right person.  Go to it.
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