We all know how technology enables communication – email, voicemail, text message, instant message, Twitter . . . the list goes on. There are more than enough ways to communicate, and too often they add up to message overload for employees.
That’s why when something is important, nothing compares to face-to-face communication. When a leader needs to inspire people—or move them to action—the best way to do it is to look people in the eye and tell them exactly what they need to know.
Communicating face-to-face sends a message before you say a word. People will not only hear what you are saying, they will perceive the greater meaning of your tone, voice inflection, emotion and body language. Taking the time to meet and chat with employees is an important way to emphasis key messages as well as reiterate and expand upon ideas expressed in other channels.
Here are six good reasons for leaders to make the time to communicate face to face:
1. Demonstrate importance
Being there in person tells your audience they are important to you and the issue you are discussing is worth your time and theirs. Your focus will get people’s attention and increase the potential for your message to be heard. While clearly a positive aspect of face-to face communication, this is also one of the reasons strategic focus should be placed on which topics to include on the agenda.
2. Interpret thoughts and feelings
When you are face to face, you can see and respond to people’s reactions – like facial expressions and body language – as well as their tone of voice. Leaders have the chance to show they care by asking probing questions and actively listening to understand the audience’s perspective. This is especially critical when you need employees to adopt new behaviors to advance your goals, such as in times of change.
3. Enhance credibility and trust
Leaders need to build employee trust to be effective. Face-to-face interaction allows you to share your strategy, explain it clearly, and answer questions honestly. Employees see how actions align with words, which enhances leaders’ credibility and trust. These sessions also create opportunities to tell stories about how a particular strategy is being “lived” by employees and recognize employees for positive actions.
4. Build relationships
Interacting directly with other leaders, managers and employees expands your network and establishes shared experience that can enhance future communication. The activities needed to build agendas and presentations build greater comfort with messaging; generally, if you need to share information with someone else, you need to understand it yourself first. It also helps create camaraderie that is the basis of cooperation and success across the organization.
5. Gather feedback
Meeting in person helps employees feel valued and gives them a chance to contribute input to organizational strategies and communication. It gives the leader a chance to confirm people’s understanding of key issues, identify gaps and encourage ongoing feedback and engagement. Consider using interactive technology to gather “live” data.
6. Address sensitive issues
Finally, one of the biggest benefits of face-to-face communication is demonstrating respect for employees and a commitment to a successful outcome when you deal with a sensitive issue face to face. Whether you are providing specific feedback to increase their success or delivering a tough message, focus on your desired outcome and prepare by understanding the employee’s mindset and possible reactions. Ultimately your involvement means a lot and taking the time to meet can help turn a challenging conversation into a trust-building interaction. Don’t forget to follow-up on issues discussed in future meetings and/or other channels to avoid diminishing the credibility you’ve created.
For these reasons and more, face-to-face communication can be a very valuable tool for internal communications. It can often be the antidote to our fast paced digital age. Be sure to keep open the possibilities to leverage this tried and true channel to its fullest advantage in your future efforts.
Prefer your content in video, or want to share on social? Check out the 6 Reasons to Communicate Face-to-Face video here:
What important or challenging issue in your organization should be handled face-to-face?
Click below to download—7 Critical Traits for Building Trust Inside Companies—to get practical, strategic answers on how leaders and companies can become more trustworthy. Find out how building more trust in your organization will lead to better business outcomes.