When Not to Use Email


Email is for information and affirmation only. That's one of the most helpful guidelines for using email that I've ever heard. Whenever I find myself writing an email containing anything other than information or affirmation, alarms go off in my head. It's time for a face-to-face or over-the-phone conversation. Scott Belsky's short post at 99u.com, "The Five Levels of Communication in a Connected World", gives sound advice on when and how to use specific methods of communication. I think "The Five Methods…" is more accurate, but let's not get distracted from the point. Here are Belsky's five levels:

Level 1: Message into the Ether (email) Level 2: Back-and-Forth Messaging (text; instant message) Level 3: A Verbal Dialog Level 4: The In-Person Spontaneous Discussion Level 5: The In-Person Scheduled Discussion

How you communicate is as important as what you communicate. I know this seems small . . . it is. But choosing the correct method of communication can have a massive impact on your effectiveness as a leader—in any arena. Email and text are convenient and often helpful. But if you're not simply providing information or giving affirmation, the very best leadership decision you can make is to pick up the phone or schedule a discussion.

Make your method serve your message. Don't let your message serve your method.

I'll repeat Belsky's closing question here: Have you developed any tips for selecting the right level of communication?