Forums

I'm noticing that staff younger than me default to emails instead of picking up the phone and talking.

I don't want to micro manage them, but particularly for my newly recruited and quite green PA I do want to develop her ability to use whatever tool is most appropriate. I think it's a confidence thing. It just feels safer not to have to speak...

I've raised this in supervision. She's claiming it's more time efficient to organise meetings this way. What do I do to get her to explore whether that might not be true?

New to this site - the podcasts are fantastically helpful but there's lots of them. So if there's a particular one you'd recommend please don't be shy. Chances are I haven't got to it yet.

Thanks

US41's picture

It is very efficient to organize meetings using Outlook or other collaborative calendaring tools like it.

It is also very efficient to use email for communication - sometimes. When you have a question which you can wait to have answered, and the question is simple and the answer is simple, then email works great.

Times not to use email:

* Giving direction
* Feedback
* Delegation
* Disagreement
* Multiple people need to discuss something and make a decision
* Explaining even a mildly complex issue
* Complaining about anything ever
* Saying anything negative

eatonng5's picture

Maybe more information would be helpful?

An example I'm thinking of is a meeting in 3 weeks time with 10 other people. My assistant has full access to my diary - but all the other attendees work in different organisations and do NOT prioritise my assistant's requests which are along the lines of "here are three possible meting slots can you let me know when you're available". This is not an uncommon scenario.

To me 10 phone calls identifying possibilities and getting dates held, followed by one email to confirm the agreed date, venue, etc just seems faster and less irritating to the other 10 people. Do people think I should leave it alone and let her do it her way - even though I believe she's avoiding the phone rather than truly making a decision about efficiency.

I'm interested to know how others work this through.

HMac's picture

[quote="eatonng5"]Do people think I should leave it alone and let her do it her way - even though I believe she's avoiding the phone rather than truly making a decision about efficiency.[/quote]

Leave it alone.

Find a situation where using the phone is a clearer advantage. I frankly think email is often more efficient for handling complex scheduling tasks. Trying to use the phone for this almoost always leads to lots of "phone tag."

-Hugh

US41's picture

Leave it alone. I think you are on shaky ground. Define outcomes, not journeys, for your people. If you want it done your way, do it yourself.

BTW, perhaps a single phone call from you to the other participants with feedback that when they do not acknowledge her emails, they are not acknowledging your email might fix the problem long term.

People who ignore the admin of someone important to them are ignoring the important person by proxy.

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="eatonng5"]To me 10 phone calls identifying possibilities and getting dates held, followed by one email to confirm the agreed date, venue, etc just seems faster and less irritating to the other 10 people.[/quote]

In my experience making 10 phone calls is an abysmal way to organise a meeting. By the time you get to number 7 you find that they say they absolutely cannot make the time and date the preceding 6 can do but then propose an alternate that you then have to go back to the first 6 to see if they can do it, which will then get you at least 5 "But I thought we'd already agreed this?" and as many "No, I can't do that slot. How about...", and round we go again.

By far the best way, in my experience, is to send an email suggesting 4-5 options and ask "Which of these can you definitely [b]not[/b] do?" then pick one of the ones that no-one says they can't do.

If your company runs an online calendar system (e.g. Outlook + Exchange or Lotus Domino) then it's easy to have freetime viewing turned on at the server. This means that whilst everyone can't access your calendar they can see when you don't have anything booked so when you're selecting the 4-5 options above you can at least pre-confirm that no-one has anything booked already in that slot.

[quote="eatonng5"]Do people think I should leave it alone and let her do it her way - even though I believe she's avoiding the phone rather than truly making a decision about efficiency.[/quote]

You're only interested in behavior, not your assumptions as to the reasoning behind that behavior. If she avoids the phone for things where the phone would obviously be better then give her feedback on that.

On the matter of people ignoring mails from your admin, as US41 said, if they're doing that then they are ignoring you. I recall this being mentioned in one of the casts on admins ("[url=http://www.manager-tools.com/2006/05/effective-executiveefficient-assist... Executive, Efficient Admin[/url]" or "[url=http://www.manager-tools.com/2006/11/your-admin-and-your-email/]Your admin and your email[/url]"). Except in very rare circumstances, your admin should have full access to your email and regular mail (I believe Mark and Mike say that your admin will read all your mail before you do and decide if you need to read it then file it appropriately), calendar, files &c. Your admin is an extension of you, if your admin does something on your behalf (sent an email, made a phone call &c) then it's exactly as if you had done it. In those situations if someone ignores or slights your admin then they are ignoring or slighting you.

Stephen

TSY1512's picture

I'm a younger person who manages several college interns and I've had similar experiences. We don't hesitate to coach all of our employees from day 1 on what we call "organizational effectiveness". Meaning, while email is fast and convenient, it is not appropriate for every communication (as US41 outlined). The way I approach it is to set expectations for communication on day 1. On their 1st day, I do the usual review of their job responsibilities and our expectations but I also include some helpful hints and expected behavior.

I don't hesitate to say: "DO NOT SEND EMAIL when a 30 second phone call or a quick personal visit will do.” It’s too easy to ignore (especially from someone you don't know) and not nearly as effective for building relationships and your professional network. (most of these students aspire to work for our company).

Then, in weekly One-on-Ones I’ll re-iterate that 1st day guidance and give feedback (also given on the spot). I don't worry that I am micro-managing. First, I am helping them to be more effective in their job (which supports me). Second, I am helping them fit in with our corporate culture. There is a lot to learn when you are starting out in the corporate world.

[u]On a side note, I also find myself coaching them on a similar subject:[/u] When I ask you the status of a project or task and you say “Well, I sent him an email 2 weeks ago”, that is not an acceptable answer. Just sending an email does not get the job done or get you off the hook. (said with a smile and a nice tone)

Glenn Ross's picture

It's the relationships, y'all!

Broadly speaking, email lends itself best to tasks, such as setting meetings. (But she really ought to try http://www.doodle.ch/main.html to identify the best dates for a meeting of more than a couple of people.) Lotus Notes has a group calendar that performs better than that, I imagine Outlook does too.

The human voice is usually best when it's necessary to build relationships. (This forum is an exception.) In person or over the phone or video conference.

Bottom line at the bottom: When you need to build relationships default to the human voice first. When you need to perform tasks that do not involve relationship building, use the most efficient method available.

bflynn's picture

Glenn, what you're suggesting is the more effective route for an individual to choose. But as was stated above, you should define the destination, not the route. If your people get the job done by using email, more power to them.

Why would you mess with a winning team to satisfy your own beliefs about the "right" way to do something?

Brian

Glenn Ross's picture

My point was not to the "winning team," it was to the effect that one AA was using telephone calls to schedule appointments. Second, many people, not just younger ones, are too task-focused and ignore the importance of building relationships with their co-workers, customers, and vendors.

An example of this is people, including managers, who hide behind e-mails when they should be talking to their directs or other co-workers in person or on the phone. See US 41's list above.

I had to learn that the hard way. Once I learned the most effective ways to communicate with my team, we went on to become ranked #1 in my organization for two years straight before I was promoted into another position. (And part of my success in communicating was learning to listen and then act upon my team's recommendations.)

As Dale Carnegie said, "90% of all management problems are caused by miscommunication."

AManagerTool's picture

In this instance, I can agree with urging people to use verbal communications but kind of disagree with really forcing the issue. This is a feedback issue pure and simple. It's not a show stopper and no big deal. As several people have pointed out, whatever works....works. That said, there is nothing wrong with planting seeds in your staff's minds through properly formatted feedback to nudge them towards less e-mail, more verbal communications.

BTW, Glenn, I like the idea of that site. It looks helpful for scheduling meetings. I gotta say though that I'm a little squeamish about putting my meeting distribution lists on their website. I don't know how they are going to use those e-mail addresses. I get enough adds for viagra.

Oh, Look at that, the spam filter removes the word for the that little blue pill from Pfizer.

eatonng5's picture

Thank you to all who took the time to offer their thoughts.

The pointer to the effective admin podcasts was most welcome - I spent this wet Sunday afternoon listening to the boys & getting the ironing done. :D

Kimmer - I particularly wanted to thank you for a couple of really helpful phrases I'll be using in the morning.

Everyone else, thank you too. As always I much prefer the advice that agrees with my instinct, but i'm going to apply the wisdom of focussing on behaviour rather than try to second guess what's driving that behaviour. Tricky to do!

cwatine's picture

[quote="US41"]

Times not to use email:

* Giving direction
* Feedback
* Delegation
* Disagreement
* Multiple people need to discuss something and make a decision
* Explaining even a mildly complex issue
* Complaining about anything ever
* Saying anything negative[/quote]

Thank you US41.

Excellent summary. Clear and short. I will translate and copy it to my team.

Can I add :
* No multiple topic (better 3 emails with one topic each than 1 email with 3 topics)
* not more than 3 paragraphs and no scrolling bar on the side (keep short)

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="US41"]Times not to use email:
...
* Explaining even a mildly complex issue[/quote]

Although it can be a very good way to pre-wire and follow up such an explanation.

"Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em (email), tell 'em (face to face) then tell 'em what you told 'em (email)"

Obviously it's best to fit the explanation to their DiSC type.

Stephen

cwatine's picture

Disc type, yes...

Using emails when verbal would be more appropriate is usually a D or C behaviour (both are more task oriented, less people oriented).

For different reasons : from D, because it is quicker and allows not to loose time. But a D will finnally take his phone if it doesn't work!

C will use emails because they don't feel at ease with verbal communication :
- they are not keen on speaking with others
- verbal means no trace!
- verbal is not a "controlled communication mode" like email (in verbal com, you can be interrupted, the other party can diverge, etc)

I had this example of an O3 with a person working in the purchasing department. The problem was he did not get order aknowledgement from suppliers. The direct (high C, very reliable) did not understand the negative feedback he was receiving about bad results. "I am doing my job, look, I have sent many emails! This is the supplier who is not doing his job!"
We changed the procedure : "after 2 emails, call them"

This is why I feel having "written rules" about emails can sometimes help with this kind of issue with high C profiles. The kind of list US41 gave.