Email vs Face to Face

I was recently asked to help a Sales Manager support the performance of his team. The initial part of the process was that we reviewed his team members’ individual payoffs. We used the approach described in a previous blog: Understanding Payoffs.

Having done this and put some development plans agreed with each team member in place, we started doing short weekly 121 reviews with each of his team to support them in achieving their goals.

The majority responded well however one team member wasn’t as bought in as the rest. We started trying to understand why this was. At first they said they were having a stressful time generally and I asked how we might be able to help.

I noticed the team member kept glancing at his boss so I asked him why he seemed upset with his Manager. He was a little shocked at first, then said he thought his communication style could do with some improving.

It turned out that the Sales Manager had sent him an e mail saying that in order to further support this team member’s performance; he was assigning one of the other team members to act as a mentor to him. The first he knew about it was when the mentor came up to him to ask him what help he thought he might need! (Then he read the e mail a bit later!)

The Sales Manager explained this was meant to be a positive and supportive idea and that the mentor genuinely wanted to help and that he was helping other team members too. There had been no discussion in the lead up to this move and the Sales Manager had wanted to have a catch up with him for a while, but work load had got in the way. So he resorted to “Sorry we didn’t speak yesterday. Shooting you this e mail instead…”

The issue was that the way the team member interpreted the e mail was that their boss had concerns about their performance but didn’t view it important enough to discuss it. And vitally didn’t get agreement!

This is a powerful example of how e mail causes issues as an ineffective means of communication. The problem is that it’s seen as a swift way of delivering a message and the assumption that the message will be received in the right way! How many times have you received an e mail and been puzzled by the content and/ or tone of the wording?

There’s a really easy way round this. It’s to adopt this rule:

E-mail is perfect for info share, clarifying and confirming what has been discussed. Anything else should be done by phone/ video call or face to face. That way it’s easier to be understood without the other side getting the wrong end of the stick or taking the message personally. And any performance related communication should definitely take place in person, via video call or phone.

What are your views on performance communication? I hope you find this blog useful, any tips/ feedback?


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