In today’s digital age, it’s easy to forget how to appropriately communicate.
Baby Boomers are using full prose and meetings (lots of meetings), while the Millennials are using acronyms and 140 character soundbites. Technology is making all of us more efficient, but it’s also making us more lazy, when it comes to communication.
Here are six ways to make sure your leadership isn’t affected by email, social media, and texting.
Be clear about what you need
Don’t expect your team to guess. And don’t expect that you can communicate the same message with everyone. Some will need humor, while others will need you to cut right to the chase. Figure out how to communicate what you need so it suits each team member’s personality.
Have one-to-one meetings
I’m a member of Vistage and this comes from their philosophy. One-to-one meetings allow you to work with your direct reports on immediate issues or challenges. This is their turn to talk and to use your expertise as they see fit. This is not your meeting. To prepare for your meetings, have your direct reports send “flash reports.” These reports are the top three to five things they’ve accomplished during the week, the top three to five things to accomplish the following week, and the top three to five things they need your help accomplishing. It should be no more than five things under each category. This is not micromanagement. It’s making yourself available to help move things forward.
Use criticism sparingly
While there are some leaders who are very effective even though they criticize and are very negative (something we’re learning about Steve Jobs in his biography by Walter Isaacson), it doesn’t work for most. Negatives and criticism should be used only to make a point when all else has failed.
Overhaul voicemail and email
I have a friend who learned her team was using email to say really awful things to one another. Things they would never say to one another in person. So she banned internal email until they could figure out how to manage their interpersonal skills. While this is an extreme example, we sometimes use voicemail and email to fire of something, rather than face conflict or have the fierce conversation.
Teach your team how to communicate
While you can’t control everything that comes out of a person’s mouth, you can lead by example and teach them what is appropriate and what is not. You also can create policy and standards around how to have conversations. For example, anything that is conflict-ridden must be talked about in person and not over email, text messaging, or social media.
Look in the mirror
This one is simple: Live the Golden Rule. You can’t expect your team to treat one another with respect if you don’t do the same.
There is a time and a place for technology. There also is a time and a place for in-person communication. Once you figure out how to best use both, your communication will become effective and positive.