Why it is of value to pick up the phone

Pick up the phone to talk to your team members rather than send an email.

How many times have you sent an email to another team member and not received a reply?  Many I am guessing. And as a Project Manager it is frustrating.

Why? Because we have a schedule to adhere to. We need a response.  The reason we send an email is usually because we have a question that we need answered.  Or we want information from the person.  Not receiving a reply creates more work for us, and ultimately could impact our schedule.

pick up the phone

Using the phone is more effective than email

There are statistics showing that using email is only 7% as effective as using the phone.

UCLA psychology professor emeritus Albert Mehrabian found that 7 percent of a message was derived from the words, 38 percent from the intonation, and 55 percent from the facial expression or body language. In other words, the vast majority of communication is not carried by our words alone.

Not surprisingly, the research shows we communicate most effectively in real-life, real-time conversation. Yet at least by using the phone when people can hear our voice they are more likely to connect with what we are saying.  Or we can hear where they are not grasping it.

People easily misinterpret things in an email

You know yourself what it’s like to receive an email and feel that it is attacking. Or that it is confusing and you don’t understand what the person is wanting.

The writer might have made a lot of assumptions that they didn’t put into words. In reading the email you have no way of clarifying these assumptions unless you spend a lot of time writing a reply.  Time that most members of a project team believe they don’t have.

We all expect that people understand what we have written.  They are on the project team, they should understand the language.  And yet that is more often than not, not true.

When we read something we put our own filter or history on what is written. That might be that we have little understanding of something, or it may be that the issue has caused conflict before so that is the filter we see it through.

None of this is valuable and is often why people do not respond to emails.

Picking up the phone gets you an instant response

And yes, I am talking here about the other person answering the phone when you call, and we all know that doesn’t always happen. Yet we are more likely to find the person at their desk and picking up the phone, where we can engage with them to get an instant response to our question.  Talking on the phone allows us to clarify expectations and voice our assumptions.

This in turn creates more clarity between those involved.

pick up the phoneCalling and arranging to meet in person works even better

If you get into the habit of making that phone call and arranging to visit the person, you will have an even better response rate.  I found that visiting the person and holding the conversation gave me a lot more information than I needed.  This ultimately helped me in many other areas of the project.

There was trust built between us.  Our communication was more open and honest, which in turn supported transparency and more success overall on the project. Why? Because people I interacted with this way were more open to supporting me when I needed it.


In this Project Management Insights podcast, I explain why it’s of more value, both in time and in team cohesion to pick up the phone.