EB107 - Business Communications © Question:   My first boss was retired from the military.  He constantly urged us to "avoid verbal orders." Writing important things in a memo does eliminate lots of mistakes.  But now that I'm a manager, I can't get people to answer their email.  What can I do besides threatening to fire someone?

Larry:  If people are expected to respond to telephone calls and email in a specific time frame, it should be clearly outlined in their job description so that they can then be held reasonably accountable -- or fired, if necessary.  Just remember, knowledge of an idle threat spreads quickly and eventually no one will take it seriously if there is no consistency in enforcement.

Before you start firing people, take a little time to explain to everyone the reasons for the "urgency" that your old boss expressed.  When good people understand that reliable business communications eliminate mistakes, confusion, tension and lost profits, it's easier to get them to cooperate and to understand why the requirement sometimes needs to be subject to progressive discipline.  And, it is very important for you, as a manager, to demonstrate consistency in your own communications.  Reliable communications are:

1.    Accurate, honest, and complete.  When we can be trusted to impart the truth in a helpful and practical manner, we will be perceived by others as reliable.

2.    Restrained and exhibit consideration for others.  We should never forget that much of our success depends upon how people feel about us as a person.

3.    Clear and specific to the task.  They provide answers to the process questions of what, how much, when, and how; and bring enlightenment that is appropriate to the moment.

4.    Prudent and create reliable relationships.  Each time a decision is made, it can affect the people and resources of an organization as well as the market it serves.

5.    Governed by moral conscience.  It is the traffic director of our thought processes and behaviors and it gives us the strength to make difficult choices and stay the course in hard times.