July 25, 2022
Face-to-Face Communication: 6 Benefits of Leading in Person
Written by: David Grossman
In today’s connected world, there are more than enough ways to communicate, and often the sheer number of available channels leads to message overload or disconnect for employees.
When a leader needs to inspire people – or move them to action – nothing compares to face-to-face communication. This more personal method of communication sends a message before you say a word. People will not only hear what you are saying, but they will also perceive the greater meaning of your tone, voice inflection, emotion and body language. Taking the time to look people in the eye and tell them exactly what they need to know is a powerful way to emphasize and reinforce key messages.
What is face-to-face communication?
Face-to-face communication is having the ability to see the other person or people during a conversation. It’s an opportunity to exchange more than just words because both the speaker and listener(s) can observe and adjust based on body language and expression. This two-way communication engages all parties in a deeper, more meaningful conversation – ideal for problem-solving, providing clarity and building camaraderie and stronger relationships. And now with technology, it doesn’t have to be in the same physical space. Zoom, Microsoft Teams or an informal FaceTime chat can offer the same benefits and connection.
6 Benefits of Face-to-Face Communication
From strengthening relationships to gathering employee feedback, here are six good reasons for leaders to make the time to communicate face-to-face:
1. Demonstrate importance
This method of communication is one of the most effective ways to make sure important information gets through to employees. Being there in person (even if virtually over video) also 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.
Given the time your audience is investing in face-to-face communication, it’s important to think critically about which topics are best and most effectively communicated through this vehicle.
2. Interpret thoughts and feelings
One of the advantages of face-to-face communication is you that can see and respond to people’s reactions – like facial expressions and body language – and their tone of voice. Leaders also have the chance to show they care by asking probing questions and actively listening to understand the audience’s perspective. This approach is important when employees need to adopt new behaviors to advance your goals or vision, such as in times of change.
Monitoring these nonverbal cues when you can see another person allows you to gauge interest, adjust the tone of voice, clarify if you see confusion and make sure you engage attention. Face-to-face communication visibly shows you are committed to meeting an employee where they are and engaging them on the journey.
3. Enhance credibility and trust
After two years of working apart (in some cases) and through challenges associated with crisis and change, leaders need to reset and rebuild employee trust to be effective. Face-to-face interaction allows you to check in, share important information, such as your strategy, explain it clearly, and answer questions honestly – even the tough ones.
While not easy to address, communicating difficult topics is part of a leader’s job. When leaders demonstrate their willingness to address those questions or have those conversations, it improves relationships by enhancing that leader’s credibility and trust. Handling these important moments face-to-face helps to encourage dialogue so you can get real-time insight on how employees are receiving the information, what’s on their minds, and if they understand what you are saying and to be sure they feel supported and listened to.
4. Build relationships
Interacting directly with other leaders, managers and employees through face-to-face communication helps you create shared experiences that can enhance future communication. It also helps create a camaraderie that is the basis of effective working relationships and increases your likelihood of success across the organization.
Find opportunities to use face-to-face communication to build relationships and get to know people. By sharing real stories to connect with your audience, you can paint a picture, demonstrate examples or make connections to behaviors that are important.
Don’t just think of different departments; look for key moments to get to know groups with diverse points of view to support a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion.
5. Gather feedback
Meeting in person (whether virtually or in the same room) helps employees feel valued and gives them a chance to contribute input to organizational strategies and communication.
Use face-to-face communication as an opportunity to gather feedback, confirm people’s understanding of critical issues and identify gaps in understanding. When in a group setting, people will also piggyback off each other’s ideas and innovate, which can be a much more effective way to get feedback and ideas – depending on the topic – than through a feedback submission inbox, or other one-way mechanisms.
Use the insight you gather to support positive change. If you’re remote, consider using interactive technology to collect “live” data and boost active participation during meetings, training sessions or town halls.
6. Address sensitive issues
When communicating face-to-face, leaders demonstrate respect for employees and a commitment to a successful outcome when navigating a sensitive issue. Meeting face-to-face shows you care. The last two years have served no shortage of tough topics and leaders have learned that communicating face-to-face, vs. hiding behind a memo, shows they care and provides an opportunity for parties to ask questions, clarify understanding and more.
Whether you provide specific feedback to increase their success as an individual or deliver a difficult message about broader organizational changes, focus on your desired outcome and prepare by understanding the employee’s mindset and possible reactions.
Read body language and clearly communicate expectations or next steps. 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.
Tips for Improving Face-to-Face Communication
- Ensure the medium matches the message. Choose the right time and place based on your topic. Some topics may require a face-to-face meeting; others may be okay to relate via email or other channels. In all cases, the more sensitive your topic, the more important it is to have a face-to-face discussion with employees. Use face-to-face communication for situations when you need to build connections and trust. Follow up with written communication when there are specific details or next steps your audience should know.
- Establish an agenda and desired outcomes. Help set expectations by outlining topics and any goals ahead of time. Not only does this signal the importance of the information being conveyed, but also helps in respecting time allotments.
- Make the most of face-to-face time by asking “soft” questions that check in on the whole person – not just the project status. Active listening and eye contact show your attention. Spending this time will also help you better understand where your employees are coming from: their thought processes, motivations and drivers.
- Be present and ask clarifying questions. Make space and pause to ask questions to clarify understanding and show you are engaged and interested in learning more.
- Request that cameras are on for important online meetings so you can read and react to body language to adapt the conversation and encourage virtual group discussion.
- Spend time with employees. It’s a simple theory – and it works. Allocate time each month to walk the halls, eat lunch in the cafeteria, and talk face-to-face with the factory manager or employees on the floor. Ensure that on every trip, you allocate time to talk with employees at the location you’re visiting. Schedule these activities, whether remote or in-person, on your calendar, just like any other critical appointment.
Examples of Face-to-Face Communication
The following are some examples of regular face-to-face communication opportunities with employees:
- One-on-one discussions: These regularly scheduled check-ins provide leaders with the opportunity to get to know their people better, increase individual performance and deliver meaningful, personalized feedback. One-on-ones help take the guesswork out of management, opening the door for more candid conversations and deeper connections.
- Team meetings: This is time set aside to bring team members together to share news or changes and gather feedback. This is a great way to ensure team alignment, as well as strengthen relationships and team cohesion. Team meetings empower leaders to motivate employees, drive accountability and unblock potential issues.
- Shift huddles: Huddles differ from team meetings in that they are brief discussions focusing on the plan of action for the shift ahead. They help to foster shared responsibility and understanding and should be inclusive of all staff so no one misses critical information for how they might be most successful for their shift.
- Town halls: These are often the centerpiece of a company’s communication with their employees; held annually or quarterly (or perhaps more frequently), these sessions should be interactive and inspiring, moving beyond the “talk at” and “command/control” formats to engage in more interactive and informative conversations about business results, priorities, future plans and strategies, and to recognize individual or team achievements.
While meeting in person for these touch points is ideal, there are various technology options that make face-to-face communication possible. Consider using Zoom meetings, Microsoft Team video huddles, video conferencing, video interviews or even FaceTime to make that enhanced connection when getting together in-person isn’t possible.
With the seemingly breakneck speed of today’s business environment, it can be easy to underestimate the power and importance of face-to-face communication. Ultimately, taking the time to meet face-to-face when it matters will significantly improve the way your employees connect and interact with you, as well as showcase your empathy, humanity and authenticity. Face-to-face communication is a valuable tool for building engagement and connection between leaders and teams and should be part of every internal communications strategy. When building a communication plan, be sure to leverage this tried-and-true channel – in-person or online – to the fullest to foster connection that drives results.
Prefer video content 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?
Looking to transform your company town halls into “must-attend” face-to-face events that engage, inform and inspire employees? Click below to download the free eBook—10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Town Hall and Unleash the Power of Your Hybrid Teams—today!
Tag(s): Leadership Communication, Leadership
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