Successful Supervisor 90 Managing a Low Trust Group

August 25, 2018

Sometime in your career, you may inherit a low trust group. It won’t take you long to figure out that you have your hands full. In low trust groups, the acrimony is obvious, and employees take every opportunity to turn honest attempts to improve the culture into further difficulties.

This article highlights why this phenomenon occurs and suggests some antidotes to try if you are in that circumstance.

Why do Low Trust Groups Exist?

Almost without exception, when you run into a group of people who are totally negative, it is because they have been poorly led in the past. Often there have been a string of ill-equipped leaders at several levels that have destroyed the culture and created the monster you now face.

The good news is that if you are an excellent leader, the prognosis to regain a great culture is pretty good. It is certainly not a cinch to turn the situation around, but it usually is possible depending on your own leadership skill. Below are some ideas that I have found work well, if they are skillfully applied.

Do not assume they are just “bad people”

Often leaders blame the workers for their poor attitudes or work habits. It is really the circumstances they have been in that are causing the hostility they are showing toward you. Recognize it will take time, but you can get most of the people to be great workers once again.

One caution here, you probably will not be able to save them all. Once people have been abused past a certain point, some of them will never be able to regain positive mindsets. One of your tasks is to figure out which few will never come around and find a different home for them inside or outside the organization. If you do have a few truly bad apples, it is essential to remove them from the rest of the group or you will never be successful at changing the culture.

Have open discussions about a “new deal.”

Tell the employees that you are not like the leaders they have had in the past. Realize they may scoff at this idea, but keep pointing out that you value a culture of high trust and will be working to earn their trust as you proceed.

Recognize that they are acting out in ways that annoy you, but the underlying cause is fear. When people are afraid of bad things happening to them, they become jaded and push back on every positive suggestion.

One of your main jobs during the first few months is to drive out the fear.

Ask your new employees to tell you any time what you are proposing does not square with their sense of rightness. They will be reluctant to do this at first because there has been a pattern of punishment for this in the past.

You must convince them by your actions that you will make them glad when they point out what they feel are inconsistencies as long as they do it respectfully.

Understand that you do not have to reverse every decision when there is pushback from the employees. Instead you should make the decision that is best for the organization but just make them not feel punished when they pushback. Treat them as adults who have legitimate points of view.

Be consistent and also flexible

It is not necessary to treat all employees the same way on all decisions. Employees have different needs, so you may have to make some decisions that reflect that. However, on enforcement of rules and policies or on modeling the values, you must be consistent and unwavering.

You need to know when you can flex and when you must be rigid. Knowing when to be “steel” and when to be “velvet” is a concept taught to me by my dear friend Bob Vanourek in his book “Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations.” I recommend this book for all leaders.

Admit mistakes publicly and quickly

It is normally a trust-building event when a leader admits a mistake. The two exceptions to this rule are if the mistake has been repeated several other times or if the mistake is due to a sinister motive. For example, if the mistake was to avoid owning up to a lie you told in the past, then admitting it would seal your fate.

Most mistakes are honest attempts to do something worthwhile that just did not work out as planned. For those mistakes, admitting them builds higher trust with most people.

Praise in public but coach in private

Become known as a person who acknowledges the good deeds of others. Make sure your praise is sincere rather than manipulative.

When it is necessary to enforce discipline or coach an errant employee, do it face to face (not in e-mail) and do it privately. Make sure the employee knows you are having this discussion because you genuinely care about him and want him to have a successful future.

Learn their names

Make sure you call people by their name when passing in the hall or at their work station. Keep track of what they are going through in their personal lives, so you can relate to them emotionally. Say things like “Did your daughter ever find her lost cat?” or “How are those new tires working out?”

Practice good body language

Making good eye contact is essential if you hope to develop trust with people. Study the different forms of body language and use that knowledge to connect with people on a deeper level. For example, you might say “You are looking much brighter today; yesterday I thought you looked a little sad…anything going on?”

There are literally hundreds of other tips that can allow you to turn a hostile group into one of high trust, but these seven ideas make a good starter kit. Practice them daily, and you can transform almost any hostile group in just a few months. Once you have a reputation for being able to accomplish this feat, you will become known as “one of the best supervisors we have in the organization.”

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 81 – Trust Leads to Better Communication

June 23, 2018

In any organization, the most frequent complaint about the quality of work life is usually about communication.

Supervisors are the mainstay of communication in any organization, because they work at the critical junction of the professional staff and the workers.

If you work in an area of low trust, communication is difficult at best. People will continually second guess what you are trying to convey. They will look for ulterior motives or hidden agendas.

It is common for workers to actually hear what they think the supervisor was going to say rather than what she actually did say.

To assure your message has been internalized, it is necessary to verify what the people in the group heard you say. Often there is at least a partial shift in meaning if trust is low.

In the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer, Richard Edelman measured a shift in what it takes for people to believe information they are hearing about the organization. Prior to that time, the majority of people said they were likely to believe the information if they hear it once or twice.

By 2011, most people said they needed to hear the information three to five times before they were likely to believe it is true.

That shift in perception means that supervisors need to be highly creative to send consistent messages in different ways until people really understand and internalize the information.

The best way to test if people have heard you is to ask them to repeat what they just heard you say. Be sure to do this in a friendly and sincere way rather than with a demeaning attitude. Stress that you are taking this verification step to test for understanding on important points.

When trust is high, more of the true meaning is absorbed instantly. The supervisor may even mess up the communication, yet the workers will hear the correct message. That is because people are emotionally aligned with the supervisor more often and know what is in her heart. If something comes out garbled in a statement or email, they are more likely to cut her some slack.

I believe the weakest communication skill set for most human beings is listening skills. When employees complain about poor communication skills on the part of supervisors and upper management, the most frequent interpretation is that they are not being heard, or if they were heard, their views were disregarded.

One reason for this problem is that humans can think at roughly four times the speed as we can talk, so there is a lot of excess capacity in the brain while someone is talking to us to formulate our responses. We end up not paying close enough attention to the full message.

It is vital that supervisors practice good listening skills, but there is a major challenge in doing so. Great listening means paying attention at a higher level than we do in casual conversation, but that takes so much energy that most supervisors cannot sustain the effort and relapse into casual listening.

The proper way to listen with precision is to reflect some of the content back to the speaker. It is called reflective listening. That technique also requires more energy than most supervisors can sustain continuously and many find it difficult to do.

The antidote here is to have a signal whereby you know which conversations require you to wear your “listening hat.” The signal is when an employee is coming to you in a highly emotional state. I think over 80% of conversations are casual, so relaxed listening is adequate in those situations.

Serious conversations with another person who is highly emotional require us to shift into a higher gear of listening effort.

Pay close attention to your communication skills. If they are solid, you are likely adding to the trust on a daily basis. If they are weak, get some help to avoid having your communication weakness drag down the ambient culture in your organization.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 80 How to Measure Trust in Your Organization

June 16, 2018

I have noticed an interesting relationship between the focus of a team and the level of trust within that team.

Teams that have a culture of high trust, habitually focus on the things they are trying to accomplish. They are forward thinking and spend the bulk of energy pursuing the vision. Little energy is wasted in bickering or other distractions, so the team is highly productive.

In contrast, teams that have low trust focus mostly on each other. The energy is dissipated in discussions of protecting their turf or avoiding something they are afraid might happen. Team members are often suspicious about the motives of their supervision and habitually seek to undermine efforts to improve productivity.

You can actually measure the level of trust in a group by just listening to the dialog that goes on in daily activities. If you hear a constant stream of negative or defensive comments about other individuals on the team, chances are that group has a culture of low trust. If you hear people discussing how they can accomplish their aggressive goals more perfectly, then it is likely this group has a high level of trust.

Make it a point to listen to the dialog in teams you supervise, and work to improve the level of trust within your group. You will find it is a much more pleasant atmosphere, and the increase in productivity will be obvious. You will also benefit from lower turnover and fewer labor relations issues.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 72 Didn’t You Read My E-mail?

April 7, 2018

My work with supervisors often focuses on communication. Reason: Poor communication is the #1 complaint in most employee satisfaction surveys. Habitually, communication has been a major bone of contention in organizations.

Even though communication tools have morphed into all kinds of wonderful technologies, the problem is still there and even is worse today because many managers tend to rely too much on electronic means to communicate information.

For the past decade, the majority of workers say they need to hear information 3-5 times before they are likely to believe it. The implication is that the bar has been raised on the number of times supervisors need to communicate a consistent message before people are likely to internalize it.

The sad truth is that many supervisors put information in an e-mail and honestly believe they have communicated to people. Let’s examine some of the reasons this opinion is incorrect.

People rarely read long and complex e-mails

Supervisors who put out technically well-worded messages have a vision that the employees will read every word and fully absorb all the points. Hogwash! If it takes more than about 30 seconds to read a note, most people will only skim it for the general topic and miss parts of the message.

If a manager puts out a note that is 3 pages long and takes 15 minutes to read, I suspect not 2 in 10 people are going to internalize the meaning. In fact, when most people open a note and see that the text goes “over the horizon” (beyond the first page), they either delete the note without reading it or close the note and leave it in the inbox for a more convenient time.

Naturally, a more convenient time does not surface, so the note is allowed to mold in the inbox like last week’s opened cheese in the refrigerator. Eventually it is thrown out in some kind of purge when the stench becomes too much to bear.

Written information needs to be augmented with verbal enhancements

The written e-mail should contain simply an outline of the salient points. True meaning should be obtained by reinforcing the key points in other forms of communication. This would also include the opportunity for personal involvement or at least dialog, so people can ponder the meaning and impact. Questions for clarification will enhance understanding.

Important conceptual topics need a third exposure (and maybe a fourth)

Some form of summary hand out, YouTube video, voicemail, text, Skype, conference call, newsletter, or podcast should be used to solidify the information. If action is required, this is a critical step that is often not highlighted. The supervisor assumes everyone got the message by an initial e-mail and is astounded that not one of his direct reports took the action he requested.

Formatting is really important

E-mail notes should be as short and easy to digest as possible. Aim to have the message internalized at a glance and with only 15-30 seconds of attention. Contrast the two notes below to see which one would be more likely to be followed by the sales force.

Example of a poorly formatted and wordy note:

I wanted to inform you all that the financial trend for this quarter is not looking good. In order to meet our goals, I believe we must enhance our sales push, especially in the South East Region and in the West. Those two regions are lagging behind at the moment, but I am sure we can catch up before the end of the quarter. Let’s increase the advertising in the local paper so that we get more buzz about the new product. The increased exposure will help now and also in the next quarter. Advertising has a way of building up sales equity. Also, I am cancelling our monthly meeting at headquarters in order to keep the sales force in the field as much as possible. This means you can give your full attention to making customer calls. I am available to travel to the regions next week if you would like to have me meet face to face with your customers. I look forward to celebrating a great success when we have our Fall Sales Meeting. Thank you very much for your extra effort at this critical time for our company… Jake Alsop: Sales Manager, Domestic

Improved format of the same content:

Let’s look forward to celebrating success at the Fall Sales Meeting. Since we are currently behind the pace (particularly in the South East and Western regions) I am asking for the following:
• Increase newspaper advertising to improve exposure
• Stay in the field this month; we’ll skip the meeting
• Request my help with customer presentations if you want it
Thanks…Jake

The second note would be far more likely to be read and internalized. When the sales force opens up the first note, they would see an unformatted block of text that is a burden to wade through. There are no paragraph breaks to give the eyes a rest between concepts.

It contains several instructions amid redundant platitudes and drivel. The second note can be internalized at a glance, and it would be far more likely to produce results. Note the use of bullets eliminates wordy construction.

Use the “Golden Rule” for writing e-mails; “Write notes that you would enjoy receiving,” and utilize many different forms of communication rather than relying on just e-mail.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 59 – Improve Online Communications

January 7, 2018

Supervisors are increasingly called upon to communicate with crews online rather than face to face. This may be due to people working in other locations or working on different shifts. Communicating effectively online is a very different process from communicating face to face.

I wrote an entire book on this topic, entitled “Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online.” In this brief article, I want to share a dozen tips for improving online communications.

Overarching consideration: Use the right mode of communication – often email or texting are not the right ways to communicate a particular message.

1. Do not treat online notes like a conversation. In normal conversation we use the feedback of body language to modify our message, pace, tone, and emphasis in order to stay out of trouble. In e-mail or in texting, we do not have this real-time feedback.

2. Keep messages short. A good email or text should take only 15-30 seconds to read (texts as little as 2-3 seconds) and absorb. Less is more in online communication. Try to have the entire message fit onto the first screen. When a messages goes “over the horizon,” the reader does not know how long it is, which creates a psychological block.

3. Establish the right tone upfront. Online messages have a momentum. If you start on the wrong foot, you will have a difficult time connecting. The “Subject” line and the first three words of a note establish the tone.

4. Remember the permanent nature of e-mails. Using email to praise helps people remember the kind words. Using email to be critical is usually a bad idea because people will re-read the note many times.

5. Keep your objective in mind. Establish a clear objective of how you want the reader to react to your note. For sensitive notes, write the objective down. When proofreading your note, check to see if your intended reaction is likely to happen. If not, reword the note.

6. Do not write notes when you are not yourself. This sounds simple, but it is really much more difficult than meets the eye. Learn the techniques to avoid this problem.

7. Avoid “online grenade” battles. Do not take the bait. Simply do not respond to edgy note in kind. Change the venue to be more effective.

8. Be careful with use of pronouns in email. Pronouns establish the tone. The most dangerous pronoun in an online note is “you.”

9. Avoid using “absolutes.” Avoid words such as: never, always, impossible, or cannot. Soften the absolutes if you want to be more credible online.

10. Avoid sarcasm. Humor at the expense of another person will come back to haunt you.

11. Learn techniques to keep your email inbox clean (down to zero notes each day) so you are highly responsive when needed. Adopting proper distribution rules in your organization will cut email traffic by more than 30% instantly.

12. Understand the rules for writing challenging notes so you always get the result you want rather than create a need for damage control. Proofread all notes carefully. Think through how the other person might react from his or her perspective rather than you own.

Your organization has a sustainable competitive advantage if:

• You live and work in an environment unhampered by the problems of poor online communication. This takes some education and a customized set of rules for your unique environment, but the effort is well worth it.

• Employees are not consumed with trying to sort out important information from piles of garbage notes.

• Your coworkers are not focused on one-upmanship and internal turf wars.

• Supervisors know how to use electronic communications to build rather than destroy trust.

For supervisors, once you learn the essentials of e-body language, a whole new world of communication emerges. You will be more adept at decoding incoming messages and have a better sense of how your messages are interpreted by others. You will understand the secret code that is written “between the lines” of all messages and enhance the quality of online communications in your sphere of influence.

Training in this skill area does not require months of struggling with hidden gremlins. While supervisors often push back on productivity improvement or OD training, they welcome this topic enthusiastically because it improves their quality of work life instantly. Four hours of training and a set of rules can change a lifetime of bad habits.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 56 – Reducing Turnover

December 9, 2017

In any organization, voluntary turnover is a kind of waste that needs to be held to an absolute minimum. This is true for all levels in an organization and can be particularly important for supervisors.

Reducing employee turnover is not rocket science; however, many companies struggle with very high turnover year after year.

The common denominator of high turnover in organizations comes back to leadership issues. The old saying that “People do not leave organizations, they leave their supervisor” is generally accurate.

If you study the best companies to work for worldwide, you will discover they have a much lower turnover rate than the average numbers.

I believe having the kind of culture where employees are locked in with no desire to leave for any reason is a sustainable competitive advantage. It is easy to achieve if you follow the 10 rules listed below.

10 Low Cost Ways a Supervisor Can Drastically Reduce Turnover

1. Develop People – Organizations that focus on employee development enjoy higher employee satisfaction, which leads to lower turnover.

If each employee has a concrete development plan that is reviewed at least annually and contains a variety of growth opportunities, the employee will have little reason to look for greener pastures elsewhere.

2. Recognize Good Performance – Reinforcing people for doing good work lets them know they are appreciated. Tangible and intangible rewards are a great way to show appreciation for workers who excel.

This improves morale if done well. However, understand that reinforcement can be a minefield if it is not handled properly. Make sure employees receive sincere appreciation by supervision on a continuing basis.

3. Build Trust – By extending trust to employees, supervisors demonstrate their willingness to support them. This pays off in terms of higher trust on the part of employees toward the organization.

There is a whole science on how to build trust. By creating a safe environment, more trust in an organization will lead to lower turnover.

4. Reduce Boredom – Employees who are underutilized, tend to get bored and restless. If there is a vacuum of activity, people often get into mischief.

It is important for supervisors to craft job duties and responsibilities such that people are actively engaged in the work every day.

5. Communicate More – In nearly every survey on employee satisfaction, the issue of communication surfaces as either the number one or number two complaint.

Communication needs to be ubiquitous and consistent. It is not enough to have a monthly shift news letter or an occasional town hall meeting.

Communication needs to take many different forms and be a constant priority for the supervisor.

6. Cross Train – Employees, who have been trained on several different jobs recognize they are of higher value to the organization and tend to be less inclined to leave.

Along with the pleasure of having more variety of work, employees appreciate the ability to take on additional skills. Having good bench strength allows the organization to function well, even during times of high vacation or illness.

7. Don’t Overtax – During lean economic times, companies have a need to stretch resources as much as possible. Many organizations exceed the elastic limit of what employees can be expected to maintain long term. This leads to burnout and people leaving for health reasons or just plain quitting in disgust over the abuse.

It is important for supervisors to assess carefully how far resources can be stretched, because going beyond the elastic limit guarantees a high level of employee turnover.

I believe this rule is habitually violated in many organizations, and they pay for it big time. Stretching people too far is a false economy.

8. Keep It Light – When managers apply constant pressure to squeeze out the last drop of productivity, they often go over the line, and it becomes counter productive.

If leaders grind people down to a stump with constant pressure for perfection and ever higher productivity, the quality of work life suffers. Employees can tolerate a certain amount of this for some time, but eventually they will break down.

It is smart to set aggressive goals, but very important to have employees believe the stretch goals are attainable.

One good way to provide this assurance is to have the employees themselves participate in setting the goals.

The best companies find ways to work in a little fun somewhere, even (and especially) in high pressure situations.

9. Feedback Performance – there needs to be a constant flow of information on how all employees are doing in each area. People who are kept in the dark about their performance become disillusioned and cranky.

The simple kindness of letting people know how they are doing on a daily or weekly basis pays off in terms of lower turnover.

10. Train Group Leaders – All levels of supervision need to be highly proficient at creating an environment where the culture is upbeat, positive, and has high trust. This does not happen by accident, or simply by desire. It takes work and lots of emphasis by the supervisor.

These are 10 ways in which supervisors can lower the level of turnover in their organization. The magic here is not any new discovery; but the consistent application of these principles will make a huge difference in any organization.

The good news is that the items mentioned above are not very expensive. They are all common sense. Too bad they are often not common practice.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 36 – Improving Virtual Communication

July 23, 2017

For the past couple decades, I have been fascinated by the topic of virtual communications. This topic was the subject matter for my second book, Understanding E-body Language: Building Trust Online.

For many supervisors, the need to communicate clearly in virtual situations is becoming more important. Unfortunately, very few supervisors have been trained on how to communicate well virtually. This article will provide some tips to help fill the void.

In most cases supervisors are local managers, and these people are not charged with managing teams in different parts of the world. For those supervisors who do deal with subordinates in remote locations, I recommend the work of my friend Nancy Settle Murphy and her wonderful searchable blog Guided Insights. She has a wealth of information on how to be an effective manager of remote teams.

This article is for supervisors who work with people locally, but do a lot of communicating with subordinates via some form of computer. I will use email as the example, because that is a common form of virtual communication, but the principles will apply to texting or any other non-verbal communication method.

1. Use the right mode of communication

For many applications, a digital note may be the expedient way to communicate, but it may well not be the best way. Consider whether having a face-to-face discussion or a phone call might be the more efficient route in the long run.

Having your cell phone or iPad in your hand is not a reason to use the wrong mode of communication for important topics.

2. E-mail is not a conversation

We often think of email as a type of conversation where one person makes a point and the other person responds. Thinking of e-mail communication like it is a conversation is very dangerous because the two modes are completely different.

When we converse with someone face to face, we modify the pace, tone, cadence, and even the content based on the visible reaction we are seeing in the other person. If we detect misunderstanding based on a quizzical facial expression, we know to back off and try a different approach.

In electronic communication, there is no ability to modify the message as you are giving it, and you get no feedback as the person is absorbing your points.

Therefore, if you start to diverge in terms of understanding, there is no way to correct the problem in real time. The disconnection simply grows as the reader plows on to the next point.

3. Get the right tone at the start

In any message, even a tweet, you need to set the tone at the very start so the other person understands your frame of reference. If not, the message can be read in a way that is totally opposite to your intention. With longer email messages, this is a critical element.

4. Keep the content brief

Twitter helps us in that regard, but the side effect is that sometimes the true intent can be lost in the extreme brevity. With social networking and email, less is often more, because people do not take the time to wade through mountains of text to get the meat.

5. Avoid Absolutes

If I write that you are “always late for meetings,” it is not likely an accurate statement. “You never call me,” is usually proven to be incorrect.

Even if an absolute word is technically correct, it has an accusatory tone that sets up a negative vibe in the mind of the reader who will try to prove the writer is incorrect.

6. Don’t play one upmanship

Escalating emails in an organizational context are familiar long strings of increasing rancor and expanding distribution. I call these diatribes “e-grenade battles.”

The antidote here is to refrain from taking the bait. Simply do not reply in kind to a message that gets under your skin. Instead, pick up the phone or walk down the hall to clear up any misunderstanding.

7. Read before sending

Depending on the gravity of the message, you should reread it at least twice before sending. With social networking this is also true.

Make sure you attempt to put yourself in the place of the reader. Think how the information might be misinterpreted, and make sure you spell things correctly, at least most of the time.

8. Recognize you cannot take them back

Most digital messages are permanent data. They do not atrophy with time like verbal communication does. You can apologize all you want, but the other person can demonstrate that you said this or that.

Make sure you write what you mean to communicate. Emails never go away.

9. Understand you lose control of the distribution

Once you push the send button, it is all over. You cannot get the message back or delete it. It is out there for the intended recipient and potentially any other person in the world to view.

That includes your harshest critics or worst enemies! We all learned that lesson in the last election. Email can become an Achilles Heel, because it can always be recovered somehow.

There are numerous other ways to improve digital communication, but if you keep these nine concepts firmly in your mind, you will have a much more fruitful interface with other people online in the long run.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763