Communication is an extremely important aspect of life, and 2020 forced us out of our comfort zones into the world of virtual communication.
Our team, like many others across the globe, continue to work remotely and are still adapting to this new virtual world. But how do we ensure our communication between remote teams is successful? (Removing your loud Labrador from the room is one thing we’ve certainly learnt…!)
We are continually learning about this at Carbon and striving to improve how we manage this every day. So, we were extremely grateful to have LaQuita Ann Cleare from Clear Communication Academy share some of her top tips for communicating effectively with staff members working remotely.
Five ways leaders can hold successful virtual meetings
It’s always been important for leaders to stay connected to team members but even more so now that we are going through a global pandemic and much of the world is either still in lockdown or re-entering it. To say that leading a remote team is challenging is one giant understatement. You have not only to connect with people through the usual communication skills, but also to deliver your point of view effectively, facilitate the meeting process and incentivise team members to adopt new actions by the end of it. All that while dealing with distractions and technical difficulties – no biggie!
1. Keep an open-door policy
Many leaders have an open-door policy to show employees that they are available to hear any questions and concerns and offer support and guidance. But how do you keep this policy alive when your team is working remotely, and you don’t have a physical door they can knock on?
It all comes down to your commitment to honest communication. You’ll need to be proactive and create structured opportunities for conversations and feedback. This may mean you make the time to have one-to-one phone or video meetings with each team member at regularly scheduled times. This will allow you to check in with them, and for them to check in with you.
You may also want to host group forums to regularly discuss how the entire team is doing as a whole. These meetings will give everyone an opportunity to find creative solutions to challenges together in addition to your regular virtual meetings.
2. Become a better listener
If we had to name one of the most effective communication skills, if not the most effective, it would have to be listening. Too many leaders focus on ‘telling’ others what to do when they should be committed to having genuine conversations with their team members. And these conversations require everyone to hear, truly hear what others have to say.
The truth is, the more successful a business leader is, the more you will find he or she is someone who listens to others. Why take the time and use your financial capital to attract the top talent in your industry if only to ignore their views and opinions?
Active listening is a skill that needs to be developed. You may think you are listening to someone but then suddenly realise that you’ve tuned out. You’ve got to really focus on what others are saying. It’s not that different from practising meditation. You’ll find your mind wanders and you need to bring it back and give your attention to the person speaking. The better listener you are, the more you’ll be able to lead successful virtual meetings.
It’s also important to make sure your company culture embraces active listening. Set an example for your team members and make it known that interruptions, multi-tasking and talking over one another is not acceptable.
3. Become conscious of the language you use
To be an effective communicator you need to be self-aware of the language you use with others. You also have to develop empathy so you can be aware of how others are feeling. Many people are still reeling from panic and fear around this pandemic so it is important not to judge other’s feelings right now. Simply become aware of how people are feeling so you can adjust your words and communication style accordingly.
This is why using video chat for your virtual meetings can be so helpful, as opposed to regular conference calls. With video you can see people’s facial expressions and body language and pick up on how your team is really doing and handling the ‘new normal’. Many of your team members may be struggling right now, so try to be aware of this and use empathy when offering direction and guidance.
4. Give effective feedback
Giving feedback is not the same thing as giving effective feedback. To do the latter you must follow four guidelines:
• Get the timing right: Think about the right timing for the feedback. If you say the right thing but at the wrong time, your recipient will not be open to the feedback and your message won’t get across. So pick the best time for both yourself and the other person. This could mean getting on a video chat at the end of the day when your employee has completed their busy to-do schedule.
• Have a plan: You must have a plan of how you will give the feedback. Create an agenda as you would do when preparing to speak in front of your entire staff. What do you plan to give feedback on? How do you plan to give it and what points do you hope to tackle?
• Offer solutions: Don’t dump a bunch of criticism on the other person; make them part of the solution. Ask for input on how things can be improved.
• Follow up: Feedback can only be successful if there is follow-up. Give positive reinforcement.
5. Offer Clear Messaging
It’s very easy for your message to land with a thud when your 20 team members are staring into the computer screen. Five of them have young children at home, running and screaming through the house, nine have dogs barking in the background and two just had a UPS guy at the door!
You’ve got to make sure your message is simple and clear. Don’t use 50 words when five will suffice. Spend a bit of time preparing what you will say before your virtual meeting. And be sure to ask if anyone needs any clarification before logging off.
As we all try to get comfortable with this new virtual world, it’s important that business leaders step up and go that extra mile to ensure their teams have the support and guidance they need. Effective remote meetings are entirely possible as long as attention is given to clear messaging and effective feedback, and as long as leaders become more conscious of the language they use and listen more actively. These strategies, along with committing to an open-door policy, are what will help leaders hold successful virtual meetings and support team members in every way possible moving forward.
We realise that current virtual circumstances are hard for many people. With this in mind, we are offering a Second Opinion Service. Here we will help you build a high-level financial plan in order to assess that you are still on target for your goals. We will also health-check your pensions, investments and evaluate your risk.
Please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 0131 220 0000 to find out more.
We have offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Perth and London. You can contact us at any of our offices, or by email.
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