The word “call” doesn’t mean what it used to mean. In some circles, like some outbound sales teams, for example, you can say “call” and you can really mean that you dropped in on someone, a face-to-face visit with another human. Oh, the joy! – or – Oh, the horror (Depending on how you feel about that sort of thing). In other cliques, you can say “call” and really mean that you exchanged text or instant messages with someone, and that not only did you not see them, but you may not have even been in a synchronous moment with them.
But I’m going to take a different approach and say that there are some moments where literally picking up the phone can have its benefits, and that’s not just limited to genuine phone calls. Let’s follow a few examples.
Are You Sure About That?
Jamie is working on a project, and has a partner, Ronald. The two of them have been assigned delegation tasks, handing out work to some new interns working with them. Jamie knows the strengths of each of these interns, based on their resumes and interviews, and lays out her plan to hand out the assignments thoroughly. But after work, when she checks in on the chart they used, she sees that Ronald has disagreed with her, and rearranged the assignments, and Jamie knows that they are in the wrong place. She’s 100% sure of it.
Jamie immediately jumps up from her seat to head over and reprimand Ronald, but stops herself. Yelling won’t get them anywhere and will cause a rift in the team, which will make working together much more difficult, and the interns will flounder. So instead of an angry tirade, she puts in her earbuds, she listens to her favorite metal songs and sings her heart out. Then, when she’s calm, she calls a friend she’s been meaning to talk to, and they catch up and have a wonderful chat into the evening. Feeling settled and far less irate, Jamie now can set up a meeting with Ronald the next morning, where they can discuss their own perspectives, and she can try and understand where he’s coming from, while explaining her own points in a civil manner. This way, they can continue their working relationship while also coming to a consensus that they both agree on, pushing their results to become even better.
Aren’t There Better Things to Say?
Leonard’s supervisory work relies on Charles, an administrative assistant. Together, the pair does some of the company’s most vital work, and Leonard values and respects Charles a lot for his contributions. But recently, their department has entered its “busy” season. Their amount of work has ramped up and Leonard is struggling to keep up. Charles is too, of course, because he must help all the other supervisors on Leonard’s level too. He’s getting swamped and is lagging more than usual. Leonard knows why. Charles’ grandmother recently passed away, and he took time off for her funeral, and has been feeling down since he came back. The quality of his work has dropped, and he’s not the same bright and cheery coworker anymore.
It's Friday evening, and work has just ended. Leonard knows that Charles was just given a last-minute assignment by one of his peers, and another decided to berate him for the quality of his work. But Leonard also knows that these are going to have even more negative effects on Charles; make him feel like he’s failing, overwhelmed, and/or useless. Combined with the sadness he must already be feeling, this can be a harmful combo. Leonard decides to act. He picks up the phone, and he goes to text Charles. Some people prefer to be texted, but Leonard recalls that Charles mentioned that he prefers to talk over texting, feeling that it makes a better, more human connection. So, Leonard calls him instead. This way, Charles can hear Leonard’s tone and inflection to understand that the words of kindness and encouragement he is offering are genuine, and they can have a back-and-forth dialogue, where Leonard can ask Charles what he needs to get back up to speed.
Surely, We Can Work Together?
Vinny oversees a small department, and he takes care of his employees. He always listens to their complaints no matter what and works through these problems to get the best result imaginable. One of his employees is Nina, who recently he’s noticed has been struggling. He visits her in her office one day with some free lunch and invites her to chat. At first, Nina is hesitant, but Vinny assures her that she is his priority. He assigned Nina to work with outside clients directly, but always makes sure she and her fellows in that role feel safe and supported. She eventually reveals that her latest client, Killian, has proved hard to work with. Vinny checks with the other members of his team, and they all say the same thing. Killian has put up lots of roadblocks and made hefty demands despite them.
But Vinny doesn’t just slap down a termination email, instead he picks up the phone. This is their express purpose, almost. He sets up a call with Nina, Killian, and the others, and they have an open talk with all the relevant players available to share their opinions and perspectives. Vinny can ask questions and try to understand Killian’s perspective. They can come to an understanding as to why Killian needs it in a certain way and develop the pathway towards that goal. Together, greatness is co-created. Vinny has made a way for Nina to work with Killian without further damage, and they don’t lose a client. Even if they did lose Killian as a client in the end, Vinny better understands how his team works and can better support their needs.
But these are only a few examples, and you may find that you have different results. In the end, it all comes down to the person. But it never hurts to give it a shot. Next time you find yourself in a position to send a text or an email because you can’t meet face to face, try a phone call. You might find it helpful!