“I was becoming frustrated,” explained a manager, “with my communications with staff at distant sites. Several times I thought we had agreed on a way forward only to discover they misinterpreted my intentions.”
The manager began backing up his electronic messages with phone calls and while that helped, misunderstandings continued. Later, the manager added video conferencing which helped but did not eliminate missteps.
“Eventually,” the manager said, “I started visiting the sites on a regular basis to talk personally with staff. I was amazed at how much better we got at resolving and preventing customer-related issues. Even though the site visits required considerable time and energy, they were well worth the effort.”
To communicate effectively, visit staff members at their work stations when there is no reason to be there. Travel to your customer’s locations; invite your customers to your facilities. If you perceive conflicts with colleagues, drag your physical self to their offices and talk with them.
Consider town-hall meeting with large groups of employees. Encourage them to ask questions and respond to all. Deliver the bad news as well as the good.
I recall asking a group of employees if their managers ever visited their work areas. “Yes,” said one. “But when work is going smoothly, we never see them. We make one mistake and they come out of the wood work.”
Do not wait until problems arise. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Engage others, preferably at their work stations, on a regular basis. Face-to-face communication does not guarantee perfect understanding but it vastly improves your odds.