So I walk over to the bullpen one morning and ask Jim if he and Mel handled the assignment I gave him when we met last week.
“Oh, yeah,” Jim replied. “I e-mailed him right after the meeting. He hasn’t gotten back to me yet.”
A smile crosses my lip as I tap my foot.
“What?” Jim asks.
“Mel is at the workstation next to yours,” I reply patiently.
Sound familiar? It should, because it happens all the time. Email is both a blessing and a bane, a means of quickly and efficiently communicating with many people in a short period of time. But it is also one-way and lacks the context of interpersonal communications; the way one’s face or voice tells you what you’re saying is accepted or rejected, for example.
Not very long ago, I directed our management team to stop “managing by Email,” and to do what we did in the good old days, meet face- to-face or, if that’s not possible, by telephone. While these might seem quaint “Mad Men” anachronisms, they are incredibly useful in making sure the best work always gets done.
How many times have you, Mr. or Ms. Agency VP, tried to “fire and forget,” blasting an e-mail out directing the account team to act on something and then discovered later your direction was misinterpreted, delayed or even ignored?
The tool that you thought improved efficiency just made a lot more work for you and your team. Would a quick face-to-face meeting or conference call followed up by an Email summary of the discussion and each individual’s responsibilities, deliverables and deadlines have worked much better?
The same goes with individual team members. All Jim had to do was stop by Mel’s cubicle and, after chatting about last night’s Braves’ win, briefly discuss what he was directed to do with Mel and which of them would handle what part of the assignment. Done.
Email certainly has its place, but it is often a poor substitute for effective interpersonal communications.