Five Tips for Fostering Effective Communication in a Remote Environment
The majority of leaders I have been supporting through these challenging times are feeling over worked, “Zoomed out”, and are just simply exhausted.
People are working extra hours beyond their already long days and they are not taking time out for themselves to recharge their batteries. In addition, the focus they once had around supporting and developing their teams has taken a back seat to other priorities.
That is a big mistake, especially where employee engagement, morale and performance are concerned.
Your people need you more now than ever before. Gallup's latest research indicates that people are presently feeling less prepared to handle the current and future world of work. According to their most recent research, employee preparedness and alignment are trending downward. People are feeling less confident about:
- being well prepared to do their job
- their employer communicating a clear plan of action in response to COVID-19
- their immediate supervisor keeping them informed about what's going on in their organization
- how their organization cares about employee well-being
It is critical that we keep the lines of communication flowing both ways, and that we are consistent with our one-on-ones, coaching and developmental conversations. We also need to be on top of sharing any relevant information to keep our employees updated on all our efforts for a safe return to work and what the future might look like for them.
Leaders who can work well in the virtual world will experience tremendous benefits of increased engagement, productivity and strengthen employee’s commitment to their job and the organization. Those who sit around and wait for this to pass so they can return to the traditional bricks and mortar environment will get left behind.
Today, I would like to share five tips for fostering effective communication that will assist you in both the remote and traditional brick and mortar environments.
#1 — Don’t Just Tell People What to Do – Engage Them
As a leader in your organization, effective communication in the workplace starts with you. Leverage your interactions with your people as opportunities to truly engage them instead of simply telling them what to do. If an employee has a question, do not just answer it; ask empowering questions that enable that person to think for themselves and learn more about why they require assistance. You will learn more about your people this way, plus you will set a terrific example of leadership and effective communication.
#2 – Show Your People That You Understand
Communicating effectively is more than just saying the right things at the right times. It is also about listening attentively and showing a genuine interest in the conversation by providing 100% of your attention to the other person. Your people want more than acknowledgement from you – they want to know that you understand them and their perspectives. That's why you should take time to not only respond to your people, but to also show them that you've been listening and understand their views and opinions. For example, paraphrase to show that you have understood what the other person has said, “So what I hear your saying is...”or, “so, in your opinion we should…” This shows the other person that you are listening attentively and care about their perspective.
#3 — Address Misunderstandings Immediately
Misunderstandings can often be perceived as harmless, but they can also be powerful enough to throw any team or organization off the proper course. When communication is effective in the workplace, misunderstandings decrease by a meaningful margin. However, it is how you deal with misunderstandings when they happen that really matters.
When it is clear to you that the sales department is misinterpreting communications from marketing, you need to step in and sort things out. When an employee has obviously misunderstood a set of instructions, do not wait for problems to arise – correct the misunderstanding immediately. Doing so improves overall communication, plus it also gives you the opportunity to set a positive example.
#4 – Improve Clarity in Virtual Meetings
How many times have you been on a virtual call or in an actual face-to-face meeting where the purpose and desired outcome was unclear? Meetings are essential to gather different perspectives and align people to a common purpose, but they need to be managed in a way that supports effective communication.
Make your meetings count by ensuring that the purpose is clear. The best way to do this is to have an established agenda. At the end of each meeting, spend time summarizing what you have discussed. Bring your less vocal people into the fold early so that their ideas can be heard. Make sure everyone understands not only what needs to be done, but also who is accountable for each take-away item and by what timeline. To increase engagement, reiterate that you will make yourself available should they require your help along the way, but it is critical to ensure everyone walks away with a common understanding and action plan.
#5 — Don’t Shut People Out
Whether it is virtual or in-person meetings or any other type of organizational interactions, people need to be heard and understood. It is easy for business leaders to dismiss ideas that do not strike them immediately as brilliant, but they need to understand that there is a person behind each idea. Dismissing ideas outright because you do not agree with them only serves to shut your people out, leading them to feel less comfortable about sharing them at all.
Instead of dismissing ideas, acknowledge them and engage with the people who generated them. Even the most far-fetched ideas can contain kernels of amazing value. When someone is confident enough to communicate an idea, you're headed in the right direction when it comes to effective communication in the workplace. It is up to you to show that you are listening and ready to engage in a meaningful way.
These five tips are not going to transform your organization overnight, but they will help you improve communication in meaningful ways that foster employee engagement, and with consistency, can translate into bottom-line improvements. Of course, each organization is different, so what might make a huge impact with Company “A” might be less impactful for Company “B.” Ultimately, it's up to you as a leader to recognize the effectiveness of communication within your company, and to set the tone that will help you drive the results you want to achieve.
How Are You Fostering Effective Communication with Your Team Members?
Managing and leading a team that consists of both onsite and remote workers requires you to develop a modern mindset and skills to address the diverse needs of your people. The future of work is here to stay, which means that you must embrace the idea that your team may never be located in the same place. How you show up and engage as their leader will make a world of difference in the overall results and performance of your team and organization.
What are some of the communication challenges that you are facing in leading remote workers? How are you coping with the new way of working? What additional ideas do you have around fostering more effective communication in a virtual environment?
I am here and available to support your leadership success so give me a call at 1.855.871.3374 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you!