Why you cannot rely on the written word alone

change management and communication

How often are you tempted to shoot off an email or sms to save time and get it off your ‘to do list’?

Or how often have you heard the cry ‘do we really need to meet to talk about this’.

If you’ve ever been guilty of this you might be interested to know what problems this might open you up to …

time pressure in change management

Time is precious

Well of course our time is precious and we should use it wisely! DUH this is self-evident but it doesn’t and shouldn’t dictate how we choose to communicate with others.

Don’t make all your decisions based on the importance of your time when choosing how you get in contact and share with others. Getting your message across clearly and unambiguously is as important, if not more so, than saving time.

Before we revert to electronic or written messaging as a default think about what we loose from face to face discussion, particularly if we are interacting with strangers.

Strangers in our midst

When we communicate with strangers or someone we only have a casual relationship with us we have to remember that they have no background from which to infer meaning or context to your words. Nuances of humour, sarcasm and anger are not easy to pick up when written down in black and white.

Two studies recently have found we often OVER estimate that those receiving our emails can ‘interpret’ our message, when in fact the reality is that when they don’t know us or the context of our message they will “fill in the gaps with stereotypes and potential faulty guesses”.

So it’s quicker and easier to drop someone an email but sometimes it is better to consider spending that time in direct conversation.

Question Mark Key Shows Doubt And HelpSome authors have proposed a guiding framework for when we should be using electronic versus face to face – one suggests we ask ourselves the following questions

  1. Is it important for you to gauge the response of your audience to ‘modulate’ you message?
  2. Are you looking to develop or build on a relationship?
  3. Is there a conflict or problem that requires a resolution?
  4. Is the issue being explored complex or intricate in nature?
  5. Are you wanting to persuade, get commitment or buy in to your cause?

And I have added number 5 to the list.

In all of these cases it is suggested that you either avoid email OR supplement it by face to face discussions.

A hierarchy of communication options

Yet others suggest we consider our communication options as a hierarchy and choose the option that best suits are need.

“E-mail is great for scheduling and confirming meetings, phone is good for quick conversations that require two-way communications and a memo is preferred for long background pieces. In-person and scheduled meetings are always the best for any discussion requiring true dialogue and consensus.”

Consider also one research result which suggested that the more remote (physically or psychologically) we are from those we are communicating with the more likely they are to “to lie or exaggerate”.

So there are many reasons why you need to consider your aim when you decide how to communicate.

Change is complicated! So lets talk

If we think about managing change we can begin to see how important face to face discussions are in building a base to gain a shared understanding and commitment to the change.

When we meet and speak we involve the art of ‘turn taking’ which is important for social interactions and lets us know that our message is getting received. We are also building ‘brain synchronization‘ between those involved.

Other research from the Human Dynamics Laboratory suggests that when we meet face to face the quality and number of the ideas generated increases. So somehow the process of meeting, talking and engaging is a predictor of our productivity.

The process also leads to more trust

 “The more team members directly interact with each other face-to-face, and the more they trust other team members, the more creative and of higher quality the result of their teamwork is.”

change management prescriptionAll of these elements are core to introducing and managing change – so my prescription is meet often and seek input in small or large, formal or informal ways throughout a change management process.

Have fun also.

 

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About the author – Helen Attrill, MBA

Hi, Just a bit about myself – I have over 26 years as a leader in the aged care and not for profit sector and have led the successful implementation of significant sector, profession and organisational change.

If you’re struggling with some aspect of change management or frustrated with your progress then maybe I can help please feel free to contact me by emailing me at helen@helenattrill.com.au

I can also help with a range of other executive expertise when time has got the better of you and your executive team – ask me if you need to ‘bridge a gap’.

To find out more about my work visit Meet Helen page.A