Should You Send an Email or Call?

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“The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things.  Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” —Sydney J. Harris

An executive I work with shared with me the frustration he was experiencing over a colleague. He learned that she was criticizing him and telling people that he was “out to get her”. He was frustrated and angry during our discussion. He had been working on being collaborative and this accusation of hers which she broadcasted to others seemed to come out of nowhere.  

As we worked to understand the circumstances, he reviewed the details. The last email he sent to his colleague was meant to give her a “heads up” that an issue falling under her responsibility was going to be addressed at an upcoming Executive Leadership Team (ELT) meeting. He had written in his email, “I want to make perfectly clear that I am trying to let you know what I heard…”  He thought he was being a good citizen to let her know. When she received the email, she reacted in a way he didn’t expect. She was defensive about what her team had accomplished, blamed my client, and copied many people. Then he started hearing from people that she believed he was out to get her. She did not want the issue that he identified to be addressed at the next ELT meeting. She didn’t feel ready to do so and assumed my client put it on the agenda (which he did not). So where did my client go wrong?  

Well, we found a few places. The week before, he had learned that the budget he had anticipated had not been approved. And what’s more, he felt that his colleague’s team should give up some of her budget or a person from her team to compensate for a new role he needed filled that would benefit both of them. So he complained about the situation to her boss and to his own boss. She heard about the complaint (of course!) and she was angry and felt, “He is trying to throw me under the bus.” My client heard that she was upset, and so he chose to send the troublesome email assuming he was helping her. From her end, when she received his email, she read it with the perception that he was against her, even though it was not the case.

What to do?  My client needed to vent his disappointment and anger about losing resources. He then needed to speak with his colleague. Instead, they were conveying messages to each other through others rather than talking directly to one another.  Once he calmed down, he was able to speak with her, give her empathy and recognize that it was not her fault that he did not receive the budget he wanted. He explained that he was actually trying to let her know that an issue important to her was going to be addressed at the ELT meeting and that he had not proposed the agenda item. They were able to communicate effectively and resume their positive relationship. As it turned out, they each were focused on different issues and had different views of their team’s responsibilities. As a result of their conversation, they were able to clarify and reconnect. They also came up with a solution to the budget and staff issue.

When you know there is some disruption in a relationship, consider calling or talking in-person (when possible) before sending an email. It is so easy to read the tone of emails differently depending on our mood. It is useful to recognize our own mistakes, too. It may seem efficient to send an email and document. However, many issues have been cleared up with an open-minded conversation. In addition, relationships can be strengthened.

Where would a call or a visit serve you today rather than sending an email? What lessons have you learned about communicating via email?

Contact us at any time at www.Potentials.com.

The New Normal

“There is a river flowing very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold onto the shore. They will feel torn apart and suffer greatly.

Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above water. And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. –unamed Hopi Elder, Hopi Nation

I used to think busy or chaotic periods were just that—unique and that soon things would settle down and get back to normal.  Likewise, organizations would plan for implementing a change and then return to a steady state. Well… most of us have experienced change fatigue and now we need to accept that chaos and rapid change is the new normal.  The military coined the term VUCA to characterize our times—volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

While we recognize that change is constant, disruptive and fast, we need to shift our internal paradigm of change.  How do we adapt? First, we need to give ourselves and others empathy.  The shifts we are experiencing are not easy and difficult to manage. In fact, the concept of managing may be outdated.  Instead, we need to be resilient and flexible and work with what is evolving. We need to work to be resilient and flexible.

The Hopi Elder suggests that rather than holding onto the shore for safety and fighting the elements that we allow ourselves to experience the river as it turns and shifts.  This does not mean we close our eyes and hope for the best. We can keep our heads above water by staying centered and present and making course corrections as we see obstacles. We can learn to ride the rapids. Ideally, we join with others and support each other on this challenging journey. When we relax into the evolving river of change we will see more opportunities.

Experiment with shifting your view of change from waiting for stability to learning to flow and experiencing the opportunities.  Who will you connect with on this journey for support?

Check Your Blind Spot

I don’t know what I don’t know

The election has heightened our awareness that we are seeing the world differently. Many have expressed their shock at how they were blind sighted by the number of people with different views.

Just as we can’t see cars that are in our blind spot when driving, we always have a blind spot in our interactions with others.  We each have different life experiences that influence how we view the world and make interpretations. Continue reading

Disruption Breeds New Possibilities

Positive Change

No doubt about it. Many have been shocked by the election results.  While there was a call for change, many are uncertain about what will evolve.  Whether you are happy with the election choice or not, we know that disruption also breeds possibilities. When there is disruption—whether an acquisition, a change in the marketplace, a change in health or another challenge—there is an opening for doing things differently.  Amidst the fear and concern with change, people are more willing to take risks and do things differently, especially when they experience the disruption as real.  Strong leaders see the opening and make significant changes during difficult times. Continue reading