Zoom. Google Chat. emails. texts. People are communicating more than ever today, and with the pandemic that forced most of us into doing so remotely, these have all been incredibly useful tools. But something is still amiss.
Technology might work all right for a quick exchange of basic information. But it’s not the best way to handle more complicated information or to build esprit de corps within a team, says Clint Padgett (www.clintonmpadgett.com), president and CEO of Project Success Inc. and the Forbes Books author of How Teams Triumph: Managing By Commitment.
“The way we communicate remotely – with email, text messages, Zoom calls – doesn’t replace face-to-face meetings and the relationships you develop with people when you can sit down in the same room and have a conversation,” he says. “Communication and conversation are not the same thing.”
Padgett offers a few tips and some cautionary advice:
Work to overcome technology’s communications limits. Technology is great for a lot of things, but when you communicate with emojis or by using the fewest words possible, your message can be unclear, Padgett says. “If I ask you a question by email or text, and your response is a smiley-face emoji, that could mean any number of things,” he says. “Be honest, how many times have you misinterpreted the tone of an email or a static document?” Skip the emojis in workplace communications and strive to make your communications as clear as possible. Put yourself in the other person’s place. If you received this text or email, would you understand the context without more explanation?
Set up clear, two-way communications. The only way to manage a project effectively is to develop the project around clear two-way conversations, Padgett says. “One-way communications should only be used for simple, clear questions that have yes/no answers or are used to piggyback on conversations,” he says. “In other words, it’s okay to text or email questions before a conversation takes place or for follow-up responses afterward. Conversations need not be the only form of communication, but they are the most important by far.” While video chats have their own limitations, at least they provide an opportunity to engage in that needed dialogue.
Appreciate technology; value people. Many managers (and others in an organization) may approach communication from a technical standpoint because they want software to be the answer, Padgett says. “But it isn’t the answer, it’s a tool,” he says. “Technically, communications on a project could happen electronically, but if you choose technology over people, your project won’t be successful. While your communications will be fast, you’ll sacrifice quality, clarity, accountability, and, ultimately, success.”