It seems like every day there is news of some breakthrough app… device… or something else that is going to revolutionize communications and make it easier than ever for people to talk to each other.
Think back to the pandemic, when Zoom meetings started to replace in-person gatherings, and even before that, when Zoom began to take the place of phone and conference calls. Or email replacing letters for long-distance communication and memos for inter-office communication. Even texts can be handy to get a quick idea over to somebody.
All good things and a significant improvement over fax machines with thermal paper. Remember them?
With Zoom, for example, you can feel like you’re getting to know the person on the other side better than with just a voice from a phone call because you can see their gestures and facial expressions. Plus, you can share your screen, make presentations, and the like.
And just think how easy and less expensive it is today to send an email with an attachment to a colleague cross country rather than sending it by mail or priority delivery.
But in my experience, these innovations can sometimes make it more complicated and time-consuming to communicate… at least, if they’re not used correctly.
Take texting. As I said, a useful tool in the right hands. But I’ve also seen it go wrong. Maybe you can relate.
I was chatting with a client recently – by texting. He sent the initial message, requesting specific information. I responded with a text with all the information. It was all there. But then, the client sent a text back asking a question. And it was immediately obvious that they had not even read my text. All the information was already right there in my initial text.
This went back and forth for a while with more questions… I think there were at least 5 - 10 messages in the thread. But, again, all the questions had already been answered in my initial reply.
Then there was another nightmare where we were trying to setup a meeting with a client via email. We sent a message asking for their availability for the next week. Essentially, we said, whatever your schedule is, we’ll accommodate you.
The response was that they had meetings every morning next week. That’s it.
So, we asked if Monday afternoon would work. The client said that would not work. That’s it.
So, we asked what afternoon would work… and they replied that they had something going on pretty much every afternoon. And so on…
In this case, a simple phone call would have made it a lot easier to pin down a time that would have worked for this meeting. But we are finding that more and more people no longer want to utilize a phone call to communicate, no matter how simple and quick that call can be.
You see, the trouble with modes of communication like text or email is that, initially, they were designed for quick messages. Something you read quickly and react to. And that’s what some people still do, even though they’ve become so much more than that. What they should be doing instead, if not willing to pick up the phone, is to read these messages thoroughly and thoughtfully before responding.
Why Communication Is Key
I feel so passionate about this topic because effective communication is part of the Core Four elements you need to run your facility safely and efficiently. It’s a basic building block you must establish to be productive and profitable and to provide a foundation for the management of environmental, health, and safety issues.
As a facility manager, one of your primary roles should be effectively communicating with all levels of your organization, from top executives to the guys on the line. To be a good communicator you need to be:
When you communicate well, you raise awareness of important issues. You get buy-in for your plans and ideas. You become approachable. People want to work with you. You become the go-to guy or gal at your facility– no longer the pain in the butt about EH&S issues that can’t get their message across or is hard to reach…
All because you’ve been able to communicate so that people understand what you’re trying to achieve. And that makes everything about your job so much easier.
This goes for every method of communication you use at your facility. But considering today’s technology, it’s more important than ever. Because, despite the ease of communicating with something like text or email, a lot can be lost if you don’t do it the right way.
With text and email, you can miss or misunderstand emotions and tones that are important. And that can lead to overreactions or even underreactions. Not to mention that the brevity of a text message or email can lose a lot of important details. And, of course, with text and email, you really are at the mercy of your reader… no matter what you do.
That’s why I’m going to stand on my soapbox a bit here and say that for truly important communications, please consider just picking up the phone or jumping on a quick video conference to discuss the issue. There’s just something about being able to hear the inflection in somebody’s voice or see the expression on their face that helps you understand and retain what they’re saying that much faster and more thoroughly.
Save the texts for truly quick communications. My team and I use it only for things like advising when they’re arriving or leaving a jobsite, for example.
As for email, that’s best used when you have a longer message but are not able to make a call. And please, don’t just send an email to cover your butt, i.e., “Didn’t you get my email on this issue last week?” That’s the opposite of effective communication.
All in all, being a good communicator can only make you better at your job, foster good relationships at your facility, and make those around you better communicators too.
I’m not saying you must be buddy-buddy with everybody. You just want to foster a culture of openness and collaboration.
Remember, that communication is one of the Core Four elements you must adopt to ensure your facility’s EH&S program is optimized. You can find out more about the other three Core principles in this article. And then be sure to download this checklist so you can follow the appropriate guidelines.