What is the best method of communicating with your unavailable boss?
“When is it appropriate to handle issues by e-mail versus in person? Some people are very busy and don’t have time to sit and talk.” This is a follow up question about how effective communication can be difficult from a reader and we discuss how to your finesse communications.
I wrote back to ask some questions about whether or not they were the boss or subordinate, here was their response.
“The boss is very busy, and he is that same age as me. He needs to let me know when he is free. SO e-mail verses talking in person. It probably means more talking in person. More effective, but don’t want to take too much time.”
Here is the scoop on being a boss. It means being available to your staff to discuss issues or situations.
If your boss is local, it is reasonable to expect to schedule a meeting within a few days or sooner if it is an emergency. If there is always a conflict, your boss is not taking his responsibilities for supervising, developing or managing his staff’s outcomes effectively.
Being a boss means setting time aside to do these activities on a daily basis. If they do not have the time, they have bigger issues with prioritizing or delegating their work. People management should be a high priority and if it is not, they may be in the wrong role.
Winning by Jack Welch addresses the role of top-notch leadership in organizations. If you get the Winning CD Set, listen to CD #3 (a refresher last week for me) where Jack talks specifically about management priorities. No surprise, he believes people management is at the top.
The best way to discuss a situation is face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball. Talking in person provides more opportunities for both parties to:
- Clarify what is being said
- Ask follow up questions
- Visibly see how the message is being received
- Respond quickly to confusion
- Measure the level of engagement and commitment
- Read body language
- Use appropriate eye contact
- Respond to generational and cultural differences
If a face-to-face is not possible, a phone conversation is the next viable approach. Here are some tips for making your phone call more successful:
- Listen carefully to the tone of the voice. If you think, the tone is sharp or non-responsive, request a face-to-face meeting.
- Be careful not to jump to conclusions. If in doubt, ask your boss to explain it again a different way.
- Recap the issue and what each of you commits to do and follow it up in writing.
- Do not feel stupid asking questions, if someone is unclear; continue to probe until you understand fully.
The last resort is using email to have a discussion. Is it quicker? Initially, yes – someone gets the issue off his or her desk and onto the other party’s to do list.
Is it better? No- chances are it will take longer to solve. Here are some watch outs:
- Both parties lose the ability to create a two way dialogue
- There is a loss of problem solving in real time
- The tone of email is open to interpretation of the receiver without the sender knowing something is being taken wrong
- Not everyone responds to emails quickly
- Brainstorming for ideas and solutions is nonexistent
- Relationships build more slowly because it is less personal
- Learn how to do it effectively if you must send one by reading learn about e-body language
Finally, do not let your manager off the hook. You have a right to discuss if you are on track with projects, people, resources and personal or organizational performance requirements with them. There is no reason to rush the conversation if you schedule ample time to cover the topic. If the boss’s time is that tight, schedule it over multiple meetings.