Tag Archives: communication

The Surprising Effects of Long-Term Remote Work

“It happens every time.  The same people talk and everyone else stays quiet.” 

Does this sound like your zoom meetings?  Have you noticed that the same people keep contributing to meetings while the rest fade into silent observers?  Have you asked your team members if they feel frustrated? 

A year into the pandemic, there is a lot of talk about the stress and isolation resulting from remote work, but there are more subtle problematic effects that may last long after the stay-at-home orders are lifted.  If you act now, you may be able to reduce the impact.

Reduced Creativity and Innovation

Are you marginalizing some employees in meetings?  If so, the team may be missing out on alternative perspectives that could inhibit creativity and innovation. In any meeting, face-to-face or virtual, it is important to make sure a variety of people are contributing to hear challenges to ideas, different angles that may not have been considered, and questions that may have not been asked.  When people remain silent, the status quo becomes the norm.

Recommendation: Rotate who leads the meetings and add facilitation processes to make sure everyone participates and people’s ideas are not shot down prematurely. Consider asking for people’s input ahead of time to give less extroverted people a chance to think and be heard.

Decreased Efficiency

Better qualified people could be making the decisions and getting the work done.  Often it is the leaders who speak but they are not necessarily the ones who are closest to the tasks or who best understand the issues.  It may be that others should be talking and raising issues upward rather than listening to decisions made by their leaders and feeling powerless to influence them.

Recommendation: Examine whether decisions can be pushed lower to free up leaders to do other things. Create an agenda prior to the meeting that includes the names and/or roles of people that have relevant information, knowledge, experience, and/or proximity to the issues being discussed. Facilitate the meeting to make sure they are heard. 

Lower Productivity

One of the biggest complaints about remote work is the number of meetings people have to go to and how they don’t have time to get their work done.  This is often an issue in normal times, but the quantity of meetings during the pandemic has skyrocketed.  It may be because people are dispersed and don’t have casual conversations anymore or because it’s so much easier to all pop onto a call than to travel to a conference room or because people are afraid of missing out on something when they are isolated at home.  The result, however, is that, when so many people are sitting in a meeting and are not being engaged, they are likely wasting their time. 

Recommendation: Talk to your team members about how they feel they can best use their time.  Create communication channels that keep people informed, such as sharing meeting minutes, having a point of contact, or creating subgroups that report back to the larger group less frequently.

Exclusive Culture

We are at a time where inclusivity is key to recruiting, engaging, and retaining high quality employees.  When you don’t see people day-to-day in the office, you may fall victim of the “out of sight out of mind” adage.  Whether intentionally or not, you may leave people out of meetings and decisions.  If employees feel excluded from the conversations, they are likely to “check out” and eventually quit.  That is the best-case scenario.  If they feel they are being discriminated against, they may take legal action. 

Recommendation: Examine how you and others determine who should be in meetings, who is on the agenda to speak, how the discussion is facilitated, as well as who has not spoken up, who is not at the meeting, and who you have not connected with one-on-one recently.  Ask your team members for their observations and feelings about participation in conversations and decisions.

Frayed Relationships

Remote work environments lend themselves to more task-oriented approaches.  Have you noticed, for example, that people tend to show up for meetings at the precise start time and leave abruptly and there is no time to chat?  Have you noticed less humor?  Do you feel that you haven’t really spent time with the people you work with over the past year other than in meetings? 

Recommendation: Dedicate part of each workweek to relationship building.  You will likely find that a little time invested in relationships saves a lot of wasted time due to poor communication and lack of trust.  It may seem strange at first to ask people to show up to social meetings during the workday and some people may reject your requests.  Stay at it and tell them explicitly how much you value your relationship with them and how important it is for you to spend time supporting each other on a personal level.

There are many ways to address these negative effects of prolonged remote work. The important thing is to notice when they are happening and take action to reverse them.

Coronavirus Workplace Tips: Manage a Virtual Team

Man sitting at desk working from home on laptopHow 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

Recommendations:

  • 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.

The Art of Turning Someone Down

disappointmentDo 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

Rady Exec Ed Program Recap: Managing Distributed Teams using VirBELA Virtual World

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

Face It: Face-to-Face Is Important

business meetingA 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 communicateantennae 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.

Emotional Intelligence Improves Millennial Communications at Work

babies crying

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