Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Communication in the C-Suite

Effective communication sets the great leaders and Force Multipliers apart from the average. Part of effective communication is being strategic about which forms of communication you use—specifically synchronous versus asynchronous communication.

The Difference Between Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication

Synchronous Communication

Synchronous communication is scheduled, real-time interactions, usually done by phone, video conference calls, or in-person. These can be one-to-one meetings or group events.

  • When giving your Principal, colleague, or direct report constructive feedback
  • When discussing a promotion or giving someone a raise
  • Coordinating your Executive’s calendar for the next quarter
  • Reviewing medical benefit plans for the year ahead
  • Finalizing event details with the venue for your company’s annual planning off-site
  • Leading a weekly leadership team meeting
  • Calling an unhappy client and discussing a solution

Asynchronous Communication

Asynchronous communication happens on your own time and doesn’t require scheduling, such as emails, text messages, voice mails, comments on tasks, or video message recordings. This can either be a one-to-many form of communication, or simply a piece of information that isn’t time bound.

  • Collaborating with your Principal and editor on writing a new book
  • Reading an Employee Handbook
  • Reviewing and commenting on new marketing materials
  • Planning an event for your company’s annual planning off-site
  • Listening to a podcast to prep interview questions for an upcoming guest
  • Reading or completing pre-work for your weekly leadership team meeting
  • Sending out a special product promotion to your customers and clients

Why Does It Matter Which You Choose?

Choosing the correct style of communication matters for two main reasons:
  1. It ensures the message is understood and the necessary action is taken.
  2. It allows you to be efficient with your time, as well as your team’s time.

The method in which you communicate your message is almost as important as the message itself. For example, firing an employee doesn’t go over too well via an email, and an in-depth P&L review doesn’t always make the most sense to perform in a group setting.

How to Choose Between Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication

Communication is a nuanced topic. We can’t just say that synchronous communication is for discussion and collaboration, and asynchronous is for information review and “good to know” memos. I wish we could! But it’s actually possible to get quite collaborative via a text-based doc or project management system, just like sharing a state of the company message may be best done at the next live all-company meeting.

When deciding how to distribute your next piece of information or relay a message on behalf of your Executive, ask yourself:
  • Who needs to hear this message?
  • What action do we want them to take? Note: The action may simply be to read or submit agenda items for the next in-person meeting.
  • Is this communication time sensitive? Can they review or watch this message on their own time or do we need a real-time discussion or result?
  • Is this communication sensitive? Is this a message or piece of information that requires a human touch?
  • Which method will be the most productive, without sacrificing our company culture?

Final Notes

Asynchronous communication allows you to optimize your time to review, listen, or take action on a piece of information when it works best for you. It’s also helpful because it allows the sender to write or create, and send a message that works best for them. Asynchronous communication can also be easily misunderstood (we’ve all had this happen to us at some point or another via text!), so be conscious of that when choosing this form of communication.

Synchronous communication allows you to handle the nuances of more emotionally charged or complex messages. When you anticipate that you will need to brainstorm, engage in dialogue, answer questions, or provide lengthy positive or negative feedback, then synchronous communication is probably best. Make sure you use your time wisely, though, as synchronous communication often effects multiple parties.

Remember, effective communication is not about what you want to say, but about what you want the other party to hear and understand. It’s worth taking a minute to carefully consider how your method of communication will achieve your desired result—or not. Synchronous communication and asynchronous communication each have their pros and cons. Be conscious of each and choose wisely for effective communication in the c-suite and beyond.

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