The right tool for the job

Nov 05 2012 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

One of the biggest challenges for modern managers isn't a lack of tools. It's knowing when to use the right tool for the right communication job. For example, if email is the default for our team, we might spend days emailing back and forth when a simple phone call would do the job. But how do you know what to use when and with whom?

Debra Dinnocenzo is a writer, speaker and consultant on the subject of working virtually and online communication. She's got a simple guide to help managers know when to pick up the phone, when to bother with setting up a webinar and when an email will suffice. It's available as a PDF download that also includes some tips and best practices. You can download that guide here for free.

Some of us might look at this list and say, "well duh!", but when was the last time we sent multiple email messages back and forth and still wound up having to hold that conference call. Yeah, thought so.

According to Dinnocnezo, here are some of the guidelines on when to use which tool:


  • Disseminating documents and information
  • Quick updates, meeting invitations,scheduling
  • Announcements


  • Announcements
  • Requests for time-critical responses
  • Quick status updates

Instant Messaging (IM)

  • Presence awareness (letting people know you're available)
  • Quick communication that doesn't require documentation
  • Brief updates/questions
  • Private chats and questions during meetings (within reason)


  • Meetings of 2 people or more
  • Discussing an issue or problem where everyone has a voice
  • Review of documents
  • At least one participant is remote and unable to get together physically with the rest


  • Disseminating visual information to a large, geographically dispersed audience
  • Delivering information globally in a timely and cost-effective manner
  • When it helps to use the interactive tools unavailable on a conference call (polling, chat, Q and A)
  • Delivering and archiving presentations for both live and delayed access and reference.

How many of us find ourselves sending email when an IM would be easier and faster? On the other hand, how many of us avoid using webinars even when we know they might be the right answer but we're not really comfortable using them?

Knowing what tool to use for which job is a critical first step. Now, using them well is another post for another day.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

For almost 30 years, Wayne Turmel has been obsessed with how people communicate - or don't - at work. He has spent the last 20 years focused on remote and virtual work, recognized as one of the top 40 Remote Work Experts in the world. Besides writing for Management Issues, he has authored or co-authored 15 books, including The Long-Distance Leader and The Long-Distance Teammate. He is the lead Remote and Hybrid Work subject matter expert for the The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Originally from Canada, he now makes his home in Las Vegas, US.