How do you lead your employees who work from home? How do you manage a virtual team? What are the best virtual communication hacks?
Two important challenges arise when we ask our employees to work from home. First is the technology challenge and second is the leadership challenge. To keep your team members productive, make sure they have the technology they need, are trained on how to use it, and have quick access to IT help to solve tech problems. This should be delegated to your IT department or service provider. You do not want to have to shift your role to IT support to keep your team up and running.
What you will need to do as a virtual leader is to shift your management style. No matter what your leadership philosophy is, going virtual will impact it. If you are normally hands on, for example, you will need to make peace with the idea your team working without you when they are working from home. If you are normally more hands off, you will need to find ways to check in more with your team to make sure things are going smoothly.
Working virtually is not fundamentally different than working in the office, but leadership challenges tend to amplify in virtual teams. Communication, trust, and engagement are three areas that are impacted the most. Here are some tips on managing virtual communication.
Make a Communication Plan
Set the expectations of how often and by which method you want to communicate with your team. Questions to consider:
- For what types of issues should they call you? Each other? Send a text? Email?
- What is a reasonable response time for each mode of communication? Hours, days?
- How do you want to be able to reach them? Should they have their phone ringers on?
- Should they send out a message or set a flag in your chat room when they are taking a break, like for lunch?
- Would it be useful to set up some group chats or channels for specific projects or issues to reach multiple people at once?
- What should they update you on and how often?
Use Effective Virtual Communication Techniques
- Choose the right modality. Use voice or video for any emotionally charged interactions, like performance feedback, disagreements, and sensitive issues. If text-based interactions seem to be going down an emotional path, immediately pick up the phone or open a video channel.
- Practice active listening. Ask others to summarize what they heard and understood to make sure you are on the same page. Similarly, summarize what they tell you to make sure you understand what they are saying.
- Communicate the same message more than once and in multiple modalities, such as verbally, followed up by an email. Ask for confirmations for receipt of text-based messages.
- Assume the best of others. When someone does not respond in a timely manner, don’t make up a dozen reasons why they are ignoring you. Check in with them. Ask if they got the message. More often than not, they didn’t see it or they got tied up and meant to get back to you.
To see more tips on building and maintaining trust in virtual teams, and engaging employees on virtual teams, stay tuned. Here are tips on running virtual meetings.
“Dr. Connell shares different perspectives of how to approach the generation gap with colleagues. Also, how to dispel and replace negative perceptions with empowering solutions that help people achieve their highest potential in all stages of life.”
Listen to the interview.
Do you agree with this? It’s harder to turn someone down than to be turned down.
By the way people communicate these days, it certainly seems true. Take, for example, the number of times you’ve emailed someone and they’ve failed to reply. Have you done that to people too? Face it: it’s easier to say nothing than to say “No thank you.”
But how does it feel to be ignored?
Not good. When you’re ignored you don’t know why. Is it that the person is really busy? Did they not get your message? Were you not important enough for them to even read it? Did they consider it and decide not to reply? Did they consider it and forget to reply? Continue reading The Art of Turning Someone Down
By Joanie Connell
On May 21, we taught the first Rady School Center for Executive Education (CED) course completely in the VirBELA virtual world. The course was aptly titled “Managing High Performance Distributed Teams” and we had participants as far away as England in VirBELA with us. Guess what happened?
Rady Exec Ed Program Recap: Managing Distributed Teams using VirBELA Virtual World
A colleague told me just today that a client paid for him to travel to have face-to-face meetings because they believed the results were much higher quality than phone meetings. After he flew all the way across the country for a few hours of meetings, he said it was worth it to get that extra level of interaction.
We often take advantage of current technology to communicate instead of making the effort to get together face-to-face. Even talking can be too much effort. People have told me on multiple occasions that they prefer texting to talking on the phone. But we are missing out on a lot of information when we interact via technology. Some situations benefit greatly from good old face-to-face interaction. Building trust and resolving conflict are two such situations. It may be inconvenient—and expensive—to get together in person, but the time and money saved in the long run is well worth it.
I interviewed a group of industrial design engineers at a multinational company to find out why they preferred to meet face-to-face, even when it involved international travel. The engineers said there were many benefits of meeting face-to-face. These included:
- personal growth (travel and learning)
- ease of interacting remotely after meeting face-to-face
- obtaining a “sense” of the other person
- seeing what others are trying to accomplish
- facilitating teamwork
- establishing personal relationships and friendships
- building trust
- seeing others’ reactions
- seeing eye contact and body language
- clearly focusing on the problem without distractions
- resolving issues
- having quick access to decision-makers for approvals.
Some people think old-fashioned communication skills are not needed in the modern world. But don’t forget that people are people. We still need to interact, understand, and connect with each other. For all these reasons and more, it’s a good idea to hone your face-to-face communication skills.
By Joanie Connell
A mom confided in me she had gotten so frustrated with her 7-year-old daughter that she started crying. She said that once her daughter saw her crying, her daughter immediately stopped misbehaving and came over and held her to comfort her. The mom was beating herself up for letting that happen, but I offered a different perspective. Look at what the daughter learned from that experience. Her behavior frustrated someone so much that it led them to cry. When someone cries it’s good to comfort them. And, the mom got over it and was fine after that. How empowering to the daughter to see how someone can get upset and get over it. How educational to understand how her behavior can affect the emotions of others and vice versa. Continue reading Emotional Intelligence Improves Millennial Communications at Work